How to Listen: Improve Your Listening Skills

Have you ever been accused of not listening? Have you ever been involved in a conversation that turned into an argument where neither party felt they were being heard? It’s time to improve your listening skills.

You may be wondering what it means to improve listening skills. Never thought of listening as a skill before? You can’t be blamed for that. People aren’t usually taught listening skills. From childhood we’ve all been told how to speak, not to listen.

Benefits of improved listening

There are very good reasons for becoming a better listener.

You’ll be involved in less arguments.

You’ll come across as a good conversationalist even if you hardly speak. People will love talking to you.

You’ll be able to empathize with people better.

You’ll sell more to clients. Better listening leads to better understanding of what customers really need and want.

You’ll be more productive. Better listening will lead to knowing upfront what truly needs to be done to get the job done right the first time.

Here are 7 ways to become a better listener:

1- Tell yourself that what the other person is about to say is important. This automatically makes you pay attention more because who wants to miss something important?

It gets you in a proper state of mind for listening closely.

2- Put away distractions. Get rid of anything that you know will compete for your attention. Close the book or magazine that you were reading. Turn off, at least pause, the television.

Yes, you must put your phone away!

This not only helps your focus but sends a signal to the other person that you’re fully present.

3- Make eye contact. People can’t tell if you’re really listening if you’re looking away from them. If you look at other body parts, they’ll think you’re weird. Who stares at people’s elbows?

Special note to men: if you’re looking at a woman’s chest during conversation, she may not think you’re weird but she definitely won’t appreciate it.

Looking someone in the eye helps you to focus on what they’re saying. It also shows that you have self-confidence. Avoiding eye contact is seen as a sign of dishonesty. People think you’re hiding something.

The trick is not to creep people with an aggressive, unblinking death stare.

In The Power of Charm: How to Win Anyone Over in Any Situation, authors Brian Tracy and Ron Arden recommend doing what they call the ‘flick’. This means looking at one eye for a while, then switching to the other. Sounds strange but you should try it.

4- Use body language to send visual clues that you’re listening. Show the other person small signs that you’re fully engaged.

Lean forward to show that you’re interested.

Nod your head periodically. Head nods can be used to show that you’re following the line of conversation. Nodding can show agreement with what someone’s saying without interrupting them.

So as not to be a distraction, remember to only nod occasionally and at appropriate times. Bobbing your head up and down non-stop will only make you look silly. You’re not a bobble-head doll in the back of someone’s car.

5- Give verbal clues that you’re paying attention. Saying things like ‘Hmm’ or ‘Uh-Huh’ at the right time shows involvement. It shows that you’re processing what the other person is saying.

This one is tricky though. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time will show that you’re actually not listening.

“Do you want fish or chicken for dinner?”


“Are you listening to me or watching TV?!?”

“Yes dear.”

Also, people can get annoyed if you’re constantly saying things like “uh-huh”. So be sure to pay attention to the other party to judge their reaction to the sounds you make.

6- Never interrupt. Wait until they’re completely finished talking before you open your mouth. There’s nothing more annoying than someone cutting you off before you can even finish a sentence.

Interrupting causes people to get angry and realize that you don’t want to listen. Wait your turn.

7- When the other person stops talking, wait a few seconds to see if they were just pausing for a break. People do have to breathe from time to time.

Don’t start talking the second their lips stop moving. It suggests that you were just waiting for them to shut up so you could have your turn. They may not have finished making their point.

Wait a few seconds, then start talking. They’ll appreciate being able to finish their sentences. They’ll also think that you care enough to think before you speak.

Wrapping up

Listening is a very active event, not something passive. It involves practically your entire body. It’s more than just your ears. You listen with your whole face. Your eyes, your expressions, even your mouth.

You listen with your shoulders, arms and even hands. (Put that phone down!)

Now that you know these skills, incorporate them into your daily conversations. Listen more, hear more and watch your influence grow. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how you can persuade people while talking less.


  1. I am definitely guilty of listening (or thinking I was listening) while staring at the phone in my hand. I vow to no longer do that! I am also looking forward to testing out the ‘flick’. Good stuff! Thank you for sharing!

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