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What can I do to become a better listener?


At least 50% of communication has to do with listening and understanding what you hear. Yes, obvious, but also easy to forget when your main focus is on speaking.

Being listened to and being understood is a basic human need. Attentive listening shows respect and appreciation to the speaker, and you show empathy as you try to understand how the speaker is feeling, and the point of view expressed. Understanding body language will help you understand how the person is feeling.

Attentive & Emphatic Listening: note body language!

If you observe people deep in conversation, you will notice that they pay joint attention to each other by their body language: speakers turn to look at listeners, to get their attention and to maintain contact with them. Listeners show attention by looking towards the speaker, leaning forward to hear and understand what is said, and to know when they can take their turn at talking.

When you listen with empathy, you show your understanding of what the person may be feeling by your facial expression (e.g., by smiling or frowning), and by head and body movements (e.g., nodding; turning towards the speaker). Listeners use background non-words ('mmmm' or 'aahh') to show agreement or thoughtfulness or surprise. As the speaker pauses, the listener can comment or ask a question to clarify a point. However, real listening removes the focus on yourself and shifts it to the speaker, paying attention without giving your opinion, until it is your turn to speak.

Last updated 4 April 2013 by Listen, Speak & be Heard (Email).