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4 Ways to Be a Better Listener

4 Ways to Be a Better Listener

In my life, I’ve discovered that everyone can teach you something, if you just take the time to listen to them.

I think one of the biggest problems, however, is that we don’t take the time to listen. And many times when we think we’re listening, we aren’t really listening. Instead, we’re formulating a response to interject into the conversation as soon as we have a chance.

When you are intentional about becoming a good listener, you’ll gain so much wisdom from others. Plus, you’ll probably find that you develop deeper and more meaningful relationships.  

Here are four ways to be a better listener:

1. Focus on the Other Person

This seems so basic, but you should focus your attention on the other person. I’ve found that people really love to talk about themselves. They have passions, interest, and things they want to share with whoever will listen intently to what they are saying.

If you want to have some interesting conversations, ask someone to tell you about themselves. It is a very simple question, but it can lead to a lot of great things.

I have found that when I meet someone, if I’m not sure what to say or ask, I’ll often say something like, “Tell me about yourself!”

This communicates: “I’m interested in you!” and it often opens up the door for all kinds of fascinating conversations.

Personally, I have learned about people’s past history, their triumphs, the hard things, their disappointments, and other interesting things. It all started by me saying, “Tell me about yourself”.

2. Put Away Your Phone

If you want to have really great conversations, learn about new perspectives, and go really deep with people, you have to put your phone away. This wasn’t even something we had to tell people to do in the past, but in our day and age, it is vital that we implement phone etiquette.

You cannot multitask the way you think you can.

Besides your inability to actually listen while looking at your phone, you send a signal to the other person that they are not important to you. When you put your device away, you tell them that you are interested in what they have to say.

This is something I do when I meet with someone; I put my phone on the table in case I need to check on what time it is or see if someone has texted me something that is very important. However, I keep my phone turned over so that I send the signal that I want to talk with that person and that person only.

I encourage you to put your phone away and focus solely on the other person. Give them your undivided attention. When you do this, it makes you a much better listener.

3. Ask Follow Up Questions

One of the biggest keys to listening intently and learning about other people, is to ask follow up questions. After I ask the question, “Tell me about yourself”, I listen so that I can ask them about more of their story.

When I hear an interesting tidbit or something that piques my interest, I’m going to ask questions that will give me more information about it.

I’m going to do everything I can to dig deeper with someone — if they are willing to open up and share. This is the key to meaningful conversations.

I want to know how someone is really doing or how they actually feel about something. Asking generic questions will only get you so far. 

4. Reiterate Their Statements

For those that know me in real life, you know that I love to have interesting discussion and go deep. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I have a very intense and analytical personality, but I also care very deeply about people. 

One of the things I do often, is to reiterate what the other person said after they’ve said. This shows that not only did I listen to them, but that I actually understood (or an trying to understand) what they said. It also gives them a chance to correct me if I didn’t get something right.

By repeating back to them what they said, and then asking more questions, it helps me understand someone better and communicates to them how much I care about them — which only fosters deeper relationships and more meaningful conversations!

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  • Leah says:

    I really like this post, ESP. #2!!!

    But do you really get good results by saying ‘Tell me about yourself’? In normal conversations?? I just can’t help thinking that I would hate it if someone said that to me, lol!!! I would have absolutely no idea how to respond and feel totally awkward. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert and really hate when conversation with new people is focused on me?

    Maybe I just don’t meet enough random people, but I feel like it’s almost never the case that I’m at a loss for a more specific question to ask people about themselves, even if I just met them. 🙂

    • I am often in situations where people come up to me and introduce themselves (whether in a book-signing line, etc.) and I have no context for who they are and they are shy or maybe awkward. If I say things like, “Tell me more about yourself…” and then I wait for them to answer, they usually will start somewhere and then that gives me a place to start asking followup questions.

  • Tiffany says:

    Thank you for #2!!! Put. Your. Phone. Away.

  • Brenda says:

    This is a great post. I often think about what I’m going to say next, rather than truly listen to what the person has to say. I’m going to follow your tips so I can be a better listener.

  • These are some really great tips!

    I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way, but I think that some people are natural listeners and some a natural talkers. I work with a lady who always finds a way to talk about herself in every single conversation and I find it so odd because that’s not my natural instinct. I’m more of a natural listener, but it’s still important to remember these tips. Especially the phone etiquette!

  • Michele says:

    Thank you for this, I try to be mindful of using good listening habits, but felt like I have been going down a slippery slope of trying to speed people up because of all of the tasks I need to get done. This was a great reminder about how important it is to others, and ourselves, when we show them respect by offering our undivided attention. Thank you, I knew there was a reason I check in every day 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    I so agree with #2!! I’ve been in tears on the phone & needing to talk with a friend when she’s cut me off because someone else is calling (call waiting). It really makes you feel like you don’t matter.

  • Julie says:

    These are great tips! I know sometimes I tend to zone out when people are talking to me (I’m more visually-oriented than audio and my mind starts to drift if I don’t have printed words to focus on), so the reminder to pay attention enough to ask questions and reiterate what the other person is saying is very helpful.

  • Alison says:

    This is a great post and reminder to “really” be a good listener. I find myself doing what you said in the beginning of this post, “many times when we think we’re listening, we aren’t really listening. Instead, we’re formulating a response to interject into the conversation as soon as we have a chance”.
    This is something that I need to work on. Thanks for the reminder and the great tips Crystal!

  • JJ says:

    Thank you for this! I am by far a natural talker, so listening is very hard for me. There are practical tips that need to be used. My brother once asked, “Do you ever get tired of talking?” Since I’m an experienced talker(ha!), I have to say the best listeners are the ones who follow up on another day with you. They don’t just ask questions to get answers for their benefit. I’ve had people befriend me and question me like a reporter, while I gave away my life story. After they knew all about me, they hardly shared anything and seemed disengaged in the friendship afterwards. It almost makes you feel like you were raped, if that makes any sense. So thankful for those who really care!

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