Last month I was working on a project with my coworker, Mike, when I came across something that I thought was unusual.

It was something I’ve never seen before, and I wanted Mike’s opinion on what we should do.

I wanted to talk it out and get an explanation of some sort. About two sentences into my speech, Mike cut me off.

“Don’t worry about that. It’s not important,” He said.

That was it.

No explanation of why it wasn’t important.

Mike cut me off before I had a chance to explain. His short, abrupt response didn’t help me whatsoever.

I’m trying to learn and figure something out. And all he could say was that it wasn’t important.

His half assed response infuriated me.

I didn’t have any resolution. He made my job harder because not only did I not know why this didn’t matter, but I had to figure out on my own why it wasn’t important and document my reasoning.

Mike pissed me off. Why didn’t he listen to me? He could’ve given me an explanation and let me go on my way. Instead I completely wasted my time trying to figure out things on my own.

Mike’s not the best listener. But he’s not alone.

When people fail to listen, problems sprout up like weeds. It makes jobs harder. It leads to miscommunication. And it wastes time.

I’ve Resolved to Become a Good Listener

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to value good listening.

Growing up as a middle child, I felt like no one ever listened to me. Maybe I’m self-conscious about it.

Regardless, I made a promise not to make others feel like they are being ignored. I’m not perfect. I have moments where my attention dwindles.

Benefits of Listening

People have a tendency to tell me more information when I shut my mouth and listen to what they say.

By showing an ability to listen, people appreciate your patience and listening skills. They are also more likely to open up to you and tell you their deep, dark secrets.

If I were an evil person, I could use this to my advantage. But I’m not. I have, however, found this skill to be quite useful in my personal life and my work life.

You better understand people’s quirks and attitudes better. From there, you can adapt your behavior to their little quirks which is huge to help avoid any confrontation or animosity.

Great Leaders Listen

According to Sir Richard Branson, if you want to stand out as a leader, start by listening. Listening is a skill that helps you throughout your career. It helps you gather information on how to move things along by paying attention to what employees are saying.

Branson says “Leaders who are great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact.”

“We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” – Diogenes

We listen for a variety of reasons: to obtain info, decipher it, learn, and for pure enjoyment. However, research shows we only remember about 25 to 50 percent of what we hear.

Many employers say listening is one of the top skills they look for in employees.

If you’re a business owner or employee, listening increases customer satisfaction, leads to greater productivity, fewer mistakes, and an increase in information shared among individuals.

How Can We Become Better Listeners?

1. Have an Open Mind

Start by having an open mind to what your speaker is saying. Listen without judging or criticizing.

Occasionally when I talk to someone with a different opinion from me, I can tell if they are tuning out what I say. What ends up happening is I don’t listen to what they say in retaliation. We are both stubborn, and all communication breaks down.

Hold back your thoughts, and listen without judging or criticizing. Don’t interrupt someone else when they are trying to finish their sentences.

2. Actively Listen

Pay complete attention to your speaker. Be mindful of what they are saying. Put away books, papers, your cell phone, and any other distractions that will detract from their message.

Sometimes I get bored when I hear someone else talking. I remind myself to repeat what they say in my head as they say it. This turns listening into an active activity instead of passive.

3. Make Eye Contact

Have you ever talked to someone while their eyes dart around the room? It’s kind of distracting.

Look at the speaker directly. Don’t become distracted by those things around you. Maintain eye contact with your subject.

4. Connect Emotionally

Listen to not only the words that the person is saying, but listen to the emotion behind those words. Are they excited or sad or angry?

Emotion drives a lot of our communication. Emotional awareness will lead to greater comprehension and understanding in your communication.

5. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Clues

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” -Peter Drucker

Nonverbal communication makes up a majority of our communication.

Some say that 93 percent of our communication is nonverbal, others say 55 percent. The numbers don’t matter. At the end of the day, more than half of our communication with one another is nonverbal.

Pay attention to how someone is behaving. Are the fidgeting? Are they avoiding eye contact? Do they seem closed off?

These nonverbal clues can give you a peek into their mind and give you an idea of how they’re really feeling.

6. Acknowledge the Other Person

Nod your head and say “uh huh” or “yeah” to reassure the person that really are listening.

Not only that, but respond to the speaker in a way that encourages them to continue speaking. Be sure to recap what they say every so often. You can do this by saying, “So what you’re saying is…” or “So you think…”

This helps you understand better what they are saying, forces you to recall what you’re saying, and reinforces to the speaker that you are actually listening to their concerns.

7. Encourage Further Communication

Once you develop an understanding, ask open ended questions that encourage them to talk further and expand upon what they were saying.

You want to respond in a way that encourages your speaker to continue speaking. This way you can extract more information that you can utilize down the road. Ask open ended questions that allow for further explanation.

That’s It

I’m not the best listener, that’s why I wrote this post. Sometimes I need to remind myself why listening is important and how to listen better.

Would you consider yourself a good listener? What would you recommend in order to become a better listener?

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53 thoughts on “How to improve your listening skills so that others open up to you

  1. As a physician I learned early in practice that listening was critical for patient outcomes. Listening is an important part of communication. When people feel the need to talk over other people, no one truly hears anything. Recognizing this early in the process will reduce a great deal of frustration. Learning to wait for one person to completely finish their thoughts is important. Acknowledging the persons comments adds credibility and respect. It becomes much easier at this point to convey one’s own message. Presentation is everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand what you mean about people trying to talk over one another. It’s so frustrating trying to communicate with someone who tries to talk over you.

    Like you said, it’s important to let the other person finish.

    Another thing that I think is important is not having a response in your head before the other person is done speaking. Sometimes I find myself having a prepared response before I even let the other person finish, then I don’t catch their entire message.

    Thanks for the comment. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Jason! I found my way here because you just started to follow one of my blogs and I was curious to see who might want to do that. I have worked in a number of fields over the years and in each one I have found that the key to effective performance is to give priority to listening. My degree is in psychology and so I realise that what interests me more than anything else is people. And the best way to learn more about people is to listen to them, be they colleagues, staff in your team, clients in a therapeutic or coaching situation, or as I experienced over a fourteen year period, when they are in front of you in a courtroom. One comment that I treasure more than any other was made the day I retired from court. There was presentation and two advocates (one defence, the other prosecuting) said a few words. The prosecutor said “We often couldn’t tell what you were thinking, but we always knew that you were listening.” A compliment indeed.

    Like

    1. That is quite the compliment indeed! I think being called a good listener is great because there don’t seem to be many people that we can say that about.

      I also agree about being interested in people and understanding how the think. One of the best ways to do that is by listening.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  4. Hello.
    You’re correct in the deduction that people “do not” listen; in fact, its reached epidemic proportion in this country and planet. Your advice in communicating is noteworthy . . . thanks. Also, thanks for the follow.

    ~ichibon~

    Like

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I believe listening well is so important for anyone’s success, especially since so many people seem to neglect this skill.

      Thanks for the comment, have a great day!

      Like

  5. Thank you for finding my blog – I’m really pleased you did. This is a great post.

    It reminds me of the saying that ‘when we talk, we are only saying what we already know, but when we listen we learn something new’.

    Thanks for sharing. X

    Like

  6. As a Professional Counsellor I came to realise that listening, really listing with all your being is the greatest gift you can give someone. The gift of you full attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that, “the gift of full attention.” I think so many people just want to be heard. When they don’t feel like they get that, it hurts.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful tenderly written post, with heart this is the foundation to great relationships. Observance of tenderness to others emotions and space builds wings, its that great word of empathy. Thank you for this read and for the warmth within.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words Georgina. I agree with you completely!

      Great relationships are founded on listening. I would say the cause of most relationships to go sour is a lack of listening and empathy.

      Thanks for the comment, have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great topic! I really appreciate your honesty about your own struggle to listen to others. Sometimes it’s easy, and then there are those other times–usually (for me) with people I live with (not strangers). The need to be right about things gets me going in the wrong direction from the beginning. Thankfully, I’ve learned a bit about letting go of that need. Still, it pops up from time to time. Thanks for all your reminders and suggestions!
    Elouise

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you about the need to be right about certain things. It’s great that you’ve learned to let go of that need.

      Life is one big work on progress so I need these reminders every so often. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great clear-cut advice! After years of being a customer service rep, where I talked on the phone to people while looking at my computer, I realized that even when I was talking to someone in the room, my eyes were going everywhere else. It’s logical to be quiet so people can listen, but your other points, such as looking your conversational partner in the eye, is not something many people would have thought to point out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you. I’m not the best at maintaining eye contact, but it’s something I work on a little bit each day.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  10. Great post Justin – something I often find more difficult as I get older (strangely!) and kick myself afterwards when I realise I probably missed out on so much that I could have learnt had I but listened attentively! As with yourself, I have resolved to improve my listening skills – part of living each moment to the full (you may see quite a bit of that in my poetry! 🙂 ). Thanks for the post, thanks again for the follow and I’ll see you soon…:)
    Rob

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love this! It’s funny you mention the middle child thing. I’d never attributed my desire and ability to listen well to the fact that I often felt unheard when I was younger. Great read and wonderful tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I’m just self conscious about it haha.

      What I noticed was that when people listened to me, it never felt like they were listening. They would be doing something else while I was talking and just that lack of attention made it feel like they weren’t listening, even if they were.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A lot of us want to be heard but almost no one wants to listen. I can relate to the middle child thing but I never thought much about being heard, I enjoyed listening to people. It is fascinating to know what is inside and I usually am the go to person in times of trouble. Great post! Thank you for following my blog as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! We can learn so much about others just by listening.

      I also tend to be a person that people open up to. Since I’m not chatty and I give my attention to people, they feel comfortable opening up and telling me things they wouldn’t tell most people.

      Thanks for the comment Paula!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great content Justin. I read your piece on passion. Even when you find it it’s still a challenge. I found mine but it’s no easier today at 48 years old than it was at 25 when I was still searching for it. In fact, for me, it presents greater challenges in living it now that I’ve identified it. Anyway, hang in there. You’ve got some really great perspectives. Write on!!!

    Like

    1. Thanks for the words of support Joe! That’s great to hear that you’ve found your passion.

      What sorts of challenges do you face today now that you have found your passion?

      Like

  14. Hi Justin, first, thanks for the like and follow 🙂 Curious, I came to check up on you ! I can so relate to the middle child thing, being one myself. Is it some weird middle child syndromey thing do you think ? At uni I was often so frustrated and angry when I felt not heard and then somebody else came up with the exact same thing I had just said and got accolades!! Made me wonder what the @*# was wrong with me… got over it. Being many years older and wiser now i figure it’s their problem, not mine. I do know someone who is really bad at listening. In the middle of telling a story they always interject with their own so you have to put yours on hold till they finish, lol.

    Like

    1. I think you could be onto something, regarding the middle child syndrome! I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with the same thing, but I’m glad you’ve been able to overcome it.

      It can be so hard talking to people who just don’t listen. I know it makes me not want to talk to that person for much longer if I feel like they aren’t listening.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. First of all thanks for following shareofheartblog.wordpress.com.
    Secondly it is really the fact that great leaders are good listeners. It’s very much practical, I have also try to follow.
    But one thing I want to mention that in our school days and also profession when ever any meeting going on some people are acting like a good listener.
    They are not making any value addition.

    Like

    1. You’re right, there’s a huge difference between acting like your listening and actually listening. You can usually tell when those folks aren’t really listening to your message.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  16. Hi Justin, greetings from Indonesia! I really enjoy your post. I feel so related to this particular content and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. I am a school counselor (back then I worked in HRD Department for placement and recruitment and did lots of interviews) and have an education background in Psychology. Listening actively has been a skill that I use on daily basis. I am aware now that active listening and empathy require critical thinking, numerous amount of energy and of course, patience. It is hard for me to have a counseling session when I am physically tired or distracted by my own personal issues. So I think listening is basically about detaching your mind from myself and engaging with the other people’s thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it is also hard to give professional advices when the problem is similar that mine. But I love what I’m doing, I keep on improving my listening skill (I am sure it is a life long process) and indeed learned a lot from listening. Thank you for bringing this topic up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment Ingrid!

      I agree with you, it can be hard to listen when your tired or distracted and dealing with other things. I like your comment about detaching your mind from yourself. It’s so important to engage in the other person’s thoughts and feeling and really empathize with them.

      I think it’s interesting that you find it hard to give advice when people have similar problems. Do you think maybe it’s because you’re too close to a similar situation yourself?

      Thanks again for the comment, have a great day!

      Like

      1. Thank you for your reply, Justin, and also thank you for the like and the follow. Yes, I find it quite hard to not feel emotionally attached with people who have the similar issue with me, that’s why I find it difficult not to give a biased advice. So detaching my mind from myself usually works for me in order to function well as a counselor and to listen better without any prejudice or assumptions.
        I am glad I can share this with you. Thank you so much!

        Like

  17. I told you that you were a leader……..great job! and by the way…..I am also very attached to the main word within your focus point “Listen” One of the most meaningful words there is ( in many ways )

    Like

  18. Listening is definitely a learned skill that takes practice. It is a way of showing people that you value them. Great topic! I have to work hard daily on the not interrupting thing. I’ll think someone is through, then I’ll cut them off when they start another sentence. I get so frustrated with myself on that!

    Thanks for following my blog! I hope if you can find the time that you will stop by my page called “Reasons to Smile” and leave a comment. It’s a list of things people are thankful for, just to encourage each other. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    Like

    1. That’s good that you recognize you do that. Recognizing a problem is the first step to solving the problem, so congrats on that!

      I’ll check out your post and leave a comment. Thanks for your comment, have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow!so many comments,great.
    Listening is my weakness.
    The Dali Lama said
    “It’s nice to talk but if you listen you just might learn something.”
    Listening is about respect but also attention span.i have a short attention span when it comes for things that dont interest me and i can listen to somebody talking about an interesting subject for a long time.
    If it is not about work i feel i just need to stop beating myself up for taking up space
    I eat quiet introvert fkr breakfast and so i noticed that if i am not to feel bad about talking too much i need to find more extroverted people.
    Some people are shy or introverted while others are just boring because we have nothing in common.
    Cyber space can be a great communication laboratory.I try to notice how much i write and how much the other and analyze that.
    My middle son is very communicative because he needed to be the negotiator.
    The dog lets me talk but is also a big talker.
    That’s ok. We are not all cut from the same clothe.
    Just noticing introverts and i are a recipie for disaster and if i want a two way conversation i need to select talkers .

    Like

    1. I agree, listening really is all about giving your full attention!

      I myself and an introvert, so I kind of know what you mean, except on the other side of things. At times when I’m with my extroverted friends they may think I don’t want to say anything, but that’s not the truth! I tend to let people talk and talk and don’t always do the best of expressing myself at times.

      I also agree that Cyberspace is a great place to communicate with others. There are so many people out there, so this gives us plenty of opportunities to connect with like minded individuals.

      Thanks for the comment, have a great day!

      Like

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