How to Become a Better Listener

Posted by Greg Smith on September 26, 2012

It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Listening is essential to good communication and it enables you to become a more effective leader and problem solver.

Many people are passive listeners. This is also known as one-way listening, and it occurs when someone only listens but does not offer feedback when it would be helpful to do so. By contrast, active listening is when someone offers feedback in a beneficial manner without interrupting the speaker’s train of thought.

Not everybody is a natural active listener, but a key to strengthening your skills is to improve your concentration. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Make eye contact. If you are talking to someone in person, be sure to look them directly in the eyes. It helps you remain focused and puts them at ease knowing you are giving them your undivided attention.
  • Hold your fire. Learn not to get too excited about the individual’s point until you are sure you understand it. Many people have a tendency to formulate a response too early and often tune out the speaker until they can get their own point across.
  • Listen for the main points. Focus on what the speaker is trying to get across rather than your own thoughts. This will allow you to determine what you should address properly in your response.
  • Resist distractions. Try to ignore your surroundings, outside noises, other people in the room and especially your cell phone.
  • Capitalize upon thought speed. On average, you speak 125 words a minute, but you think and therefore listen at almost four times that speed. Don’t let your mind stray while you are waiting for the person’s next thought. Instead, try to “listen between the lines” by interpreting non-verbal messages.
  • Listen for feeling as well as fact. The emotion behind what someone says is often as important as the words themselves. Note those things that the person speaking is passionate about and base your response accordingly.

What tricks do you use to become a better listener? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses to us using the hashtag #mcgblog.