Are You Really Listening?

Public speaking and the fear of doing so is something people commonly discuss, but something not quite as frequently mentioned is the act of listening. When I refer to listening, I’m not solely alluding to the act of using the ears and brain to take in and process information. I’m talking about being a good audience member, a good friend, and a good confidant.

Your status as a good or bad listener may be determining the success of your social, work, and romantic lives. But don’t fret! You can improve.


“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

Dalai Lama

We live in an era where people seem to do much more talking than they do listening. I tend to blame emerging and evolving technology for this problem, but there are doubtlessly more roots to the issue.

Regardless of the growth of this problem, this behavior is something that can be corrected. It just takes some self-discipline, but becoming a good listener is possible.


What do effective listeners do?

There are undoubtedly countless aspects to being a good listener, but these four characteristics are a great place to start:

Eye contact

If you can, look the speaker or your friend in the eyes. This is a major indicator that you are giving them your undivided attention. Try not to look at your phone, down at the floor, or up at the ceiling.

The only place you should be looking is at the speaker or in their general direction. They may feel that you’re uninterested if you spend too much time looking away from them.

Body language

Body language is often forgotten since we can’t watch ourselves during organic conversations or meetings. I’m not going to get into the really picky stuff, like which direction your legs should be facing when they’re crossed. For now, I’m just referring to fidgeting.

This a major challenge for most people, whether it’s due to anxiety or sleepiness, it can have the speaker thinking that you’re feeling any number of different ways from nervous to disinterested to frustrated.

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I constantly have to keep myself in check during meetings or even just having a conversation with a friend. Each time I catch myself fidgeting, I try to stop. I tend to bounce my legs and mess with my fingernails. Over time, I have become more conscious of the behavior and I’m improving.

I think the best way to stop fidgeting is to try your best to correct yourself and be as patient as you can.

Respect

Try not to interrupt to tell your own anecdote or opinion in the midst of someone else speaking. I see this happen often, but I can also recall being the interrupter in many conversations. It’s a common occurrence, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply wait for them to finish and use that as your segway to tell your own related story or comment.

Additionally, too many short comments, like “Aah” or “Oh okay,” can be distracting for the person speaking. Causing them to pause too often can lead them to lose their train of thought. Absolutely be interactive when you are listening, but try to keep your spoken support to a minimum when listening.

Empathy

Good listeners listen with their hearts. This means you should strive to have a look of interest or concern your face, or even nod your head, depending on what you are hearing.

Be empathetic to what the individual is telling you. Venting to someone is usually intended to be a freeing experience, but it won’t feel very liberating if the person they’re venting to is giving them an apathetic look.

Show emotion when listening also shows the speaker that you’re following every single word and detail of what they are saying.


Effective listening is important for all types of relationships, from business relationships to family. Relationships thrive off of reciprocation, which is where the act of listening steps in.

What’s in it for me?

Being an intentional listener can simultaneously change the way you see the world and how the world sees you. Fully listening makes it more likely that you comprehend everything you hear, rather than snippets that you choose to listen to.

Photo by ELEVATE from Pexels

Hearing what we don’t want to hear is usually exactly what we need in order to grow. Our progress doesn’t have to be static. Have you ever heard the cliche that you learn something new everyday? This is truly possible if you always listen as if there is something intriguing to learn about.

Radiate the energy you want to be associated with and remembered by. Being a good listener will naturally make you stand out in a society full of poor listeners. Opportunities to be a good listener pop up everywhere, from church services to business meetings.

How well you listen can communicate what your priorities are.

If you show that you are listening intently and sympathetically, you will appear to be more trustworthy and dependable. This goes for work environments as well as with friends.

Listening intently is essential for maintaining a healthy relationship with anyone. None of us wants to talk with someone who seems like they would rather be somewhere else. Do your best not to be that person.


What are your thoughts about effective listening? Do you know of people in your daily life who fail to listen completely? Let me know in the comment section below!

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