how to be a good listener

There’s a Chinese saying: 诉说是一种本能,倾听是一种教养。It basically means that, it is our instinct to talk but it takes an educated (cultured) person to listen.

We all know quite a lot active talkers and public speakers, but are there many good listeners around you?

I for one, is a big offender of not listening. I didn’t even bother ask questions! Because I used to be so soaked up in day dreaming, I didn’t really care to pay attention to anything else!

Why it is important to be a good listener? Because listening forms a vital part of communication. It was stressed almost everywhere nowadays that it is essential to have good “communication skills” in our modern society. But “communication skills” are quite often interpreted as “speaking skills”. That’s why there are so many courses out there teaching public speaking, sales & marketing etc.. But I’m yet to discover one course specialised in teaching “How to be a good listener.” Maybe most people think as long as one can hear, one can listen.

how to be a good listener

I once met a good public speaker and educator in sales and marketing. He has a perfect voice, great body posture and the confidence one needs to be a good public speaker. During a group conversation, he asked someone a personal question then immediately lowered his head to check his phone message. He then asked the same question later as if it was never asked or answered. Needless to say, the person who was asked felt a little annoyed the second time. By observing this little episode that night, I realized how easy it is to overlook the importance of being a good listener.

Someone famous (Dale Carnegie?) once said, you need to be interested to be interesting. He’s absolutely right.

So, how to be a good listener?

Here are 3 simple steps to start with:

1. Don’t be busy thinking about what you need to say next.

Very often, while other people are talking to us, we would be so busy thinking about what we should say next. It’s totally natural for wanting to come up with something relevant, even witty to say next. We might think it’s the best way of showing our conversational partner that we listened. But a lot of times, listening alone is all is needed. When we are so busy thinking about what to say in return, we stop listening attentively. Our conversational partners want to share and be understood.

2. Don’t interrupt.

“Interrupt” is one of the social attraction killers & I’m often guilty of that. Let your conversational partner finish with what he/she wants (needs) to say. Don’t interrupt them. Sometimes we are fulling listening and following but still can’t help but interrupt by the following

– Offering advice without being asked.

Like mentioned before, a lot of times, listening alone is enough. Don’t interrupt the person who’s speaking by jumping in offering advice unless she/he asks your advise specifically.

– Asking questions while the other person is still talking.

It’s all good to ask questions to show that you are listening and interested to find out more.

But try to hold onto your questions when the speaker stops talking.

Saying “me too” too quickly & stealing their thunder!

Don’t interrupt by saying “Me Too” eagerly and starting to sharing your story too soon:). Your conversational partner started first, let  her/him finish their story first.

3 Give your conversational partner your full attention by making eye contact.

Your body shows whether you are listening or not. If you really respect your conversational partner and want to listen to them with your full attention, lean towards them and make eye contact from time to time. That’ll also help you concentrate on what they are saying more.