Five Active Listening Techniques To Become a Better Listener

If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone and walked away feeling as though you didn’t really connect with or understand what they were saying, then chances are you experienced the result of passive listening.

What does this mean?

It means that you were not actively paying attention to the message that the other person was trying to convey.

Many of us go throughout our lives without taking the time to understand what other people are saying to us, where we barely give their words two thoughts of conscious analysis.

We hear but we don’t actually listen.

Active listening is a skill that is invaluable but few people ever really acquire it. This is because it takes WORK to do it. It takes a commitment to get better and a willingness to look beyond yourself and explore the thought process of another person.

If you practice active listening, your relationships and ability to understand what other people are really trying to communicate will improve greatly.

What Is Active Listening?

Active listening means that you’re consciously giving the speaker your full and undivided attention, because it’s your goal to completely understand their thoughts and ideas. Unlike passive listening, active listening involves engaging all your senses. You will know you’re listening actively because it will make you tired! Paying attention to and focusing on another person requires stamina.

Another clue to whether or not you or another person is listening actively is to see if they ignore distractions around them. If so, the person is listening actively (or spacing out). Someone who is actively listening smiles more, gives more feedback, and asks more questions.

What Are The Benefits of Active Listening?

Active listening can result in lasting relationships. Part of building good communication skills is showing the other person that you are genuinely interested in his or her point of view. When an individual notices your desire to understand them, you’re more likely to build a connection with them and find common ground. Active listening helps you develop a sense of mutual respect.

Additionally, conflicts can be resolved more easily. Often times the reason for an argument is not the fact that both parties have differing opinions, but because neither side is willing to try to understand the other. When you take the time to actively listen to a person’s point of view, they feel less of a need to go on the defensive. A compromise can more easily be reached because they feel as though they are being heard.

Moreover, active listening helps you retain more information. It’s hard to forget what someone said if you’re completely engaged with their words. The more of your senses that you use when listening to the speaker’s words, the more likely you’ll be able to keep that message in your memory.

Active Listening Techniques

Face The Speaker

This seems to be common sense, but we’re so often distracted by so many other things (i.e. cell phones, computers, etc.) that we fail to make sufficient eye contact with the speaker. Parents often encourage strong eye contact when they’re teaching their children how to listen well. This is because it’s easier to be fully engaged when we look someone in their eyes.

Visualize What The Person Is Talking About

If the individual is recalling a specific event or is attempting to recreate a situation, try to imagine it as though you’re there. Creating a mental image makes it much easier to follow a story line. Doing this will also help you avoid the distraction of planning what you’d like to say before the speaker stops talking. As long as you don’t get lost in your imagination, this will keep you focused on the speaker.

Ask Questions

Ask the speaker to clarify things that you’re confused about. Confusion can often serve as a distraction and it makes it hard to follow the rest of the conversation. In order to ensure you have a good grasp of the subject matter, repeat the speaker’s answer back to them in a paraphrased form.

It’s also best that you wait for the speaker to pause before you start to ask for further clarifications. A good time when speakers usually pause is when they’re inhaling. Watching for this will help prevent you from interrupting them.

Avoid Interrupting Them

Asking questions is necessary, but don’t cut someone off with your opinions or ideas. It’s disrespectful and immature. Yes, it can be difficult to listen to someone when we disagree with what they are saying, or if we want to mention a point before we forget it, but nobody likes being interrupted.

Always allow the speaker to complete their thoughts. This will help to ensure that you’re fully informed before you offer anything in return when you speak.

Listen For Nonverbal Cues

It’s important that you pay attention to things that aren’t being said too. This takes real concentration. If you can pick up on the hidden context of a speaker’s message, then you’re closer to becoming a master of active listening.

In Review

  1. Face The Speaker
  2. Visualize What The Person Is Talking About
  3. Ask Questions
  4. Avoid Interrupting Them
  5. Listen For Nonverbal Cues

If you make the effort to improve your active listening with these 5 techniques, you’re bound to become a better communicator.

This post originally appeared at




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