How to Actively Listen

Опубликовал Admin
15-07-2021, 21:20
If you want to get involved in deeper conversations, listening with your full attention helps you understand the topic better. Even if you think you’re already a good listener, it’s sometimes tough to engage with another person. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to stay focused on what the other person is saying. We’ll start with some tips on body language and move on to things you can say to make the other person feel heard.

Get rid of distractions.

  1. Give the other person your full attention to show respect. When you’re about to have a conversation, put your phone away, turn off the TV, and avoid looking around the room. Set aside anything that you’re working on so you’re not tempted to fidget or lose focus. If you’re in a loud room, see if you can move to somewhere that’s a little quieter so you can avoid the background noise.
    • This goes for mental distractions as well, such as fixating on the speaker’s mannerisms or daydreaming.
    • It’s still okay to have quick, casual conversations from across the room, but move and face the person speaking if you’re talking for a long time.

Maintain eye contact.

  1. Look at the other person while they’re speaking so they know you’re focused. It’s okay to look away every now and then, but try to keep most of your focus on the other person’s face. That way, you’ll build a deeper connection and give your undivided attention to them.
    • We know that it can be hard to make eye contact if you’re shy or uncertain, so try focusing on the space between their eyebrows or their mouth. You can even practice making eye contact with yourself in a mirror.
    • In some cultures, it’s taboo and rude to make prolonged eye contact. Learn the customs of who you’re speaking to so you don’t make them feel uncomfortable.

Lean in toward the person.

  1. If you slouch back and cross your arms, you come across as disinterested. Instead, lean your body closer to the person speaking so you’re more attentive and can hear them better. Keep your arms at your side to help you look more open and accepting to what they have to say.
    • Stay aware of your body language throughout the conversation and correct your posture if you realize you’re closed off.

Smile and nod.

  1. Encourage the other person to keep speaking with simple facial expressions. Be mindful of your facial expressions so you don’t accidentally make it seem like you’re disapproving or disgusted. Instead, offer a kind smile and nod along with what they’re saying to show you understand what they’re saying. With a little bit of encouragement, you’ll make the speaker feel more comfortable about opening up and truly saying what’s on their mind.
    • Make sure your facial expressions match the tone of the conversation. For example, you probably shouldn’t smile if you’re talking about relationship issues or another difficult topic.

Give short verbal affirmations.

  1. Saying something like “mmhmm” or “I understand” keeps you engaged. If there’s a brief pause, let the person know you’re listening to them with a short, positive phrase. Be mindful not to speak over the person or interrupt them. The other person will get that you’re understanding them and feel comfortable going deeper into the conversation. Other things you can try saying include:
    • “Okay.”
    • “Go on.”
    • “Oh?”
    • “Then what happened?”

Avoid being judgmental.

  1. Let the other person speak their mind so you hear their perspective. Even if you don’t fully agree with the person, don’t let your personal prejudices get in the way of what they’re saying. Rather than rudely putting the speaker down or asserting your opinions, keep an open mind and try to picture things from their point of view. Focus on their perspective of the topic and let them describe their thoughts.
    • Let go of any assumptions you have on the topic and approach the conversation with curiosity. That way, you can be exposed to new points of view you haven’t considered before.
    • Check the person’s body language for any underlying emotions they might be feeling. For example, if the person thought you promised to do chores around the house in the morning and you didn’t do them, they might feel a little upset.

Stop thinking of what to say next.

  1. Thinking about your side of the conversation distracts you more. Rather than waiting for your turn to talk, shut out those thoughts until the person is done speaking. Listen completely to the other person until they don’t have anything else to say so you can fully reflect on how they feel about the topic.
    • Try not to get fixated on how you’ll respond to a minor thing the person says. Instead, listen to their entire side of the conversation so you can understand where they’re coming from better.

Let them finish without interruption.

  1. Avoid cutting the other person off so you don’t seem rude. Even though you may want to point out something the person says in the moment, hold the thought until they explain everything. If they pause in the middle of a sentence, let them collect their thoughts and finish rather than interjecting. When it’s your turn in the conversation, take everything they said into consideration before bringing up your points.
    • Try not to rush the other person through what they’re saying. Let the person go through the details they want to go over since it might be important to how they’re feeling.

Ask open-ended questions for clarification.

  1. Encourage the person to speak more so you can understand them better. Open-ended questions also show that you were listening to the points they were making and that you’re genuinely interested in understanding them. Some questions you can try out include:
    • “What did you mean by that?”
    • “What are some of the other possibilities?”
    • “How else could you explain this?”
    • “What alternatives have you considered?”
    • Be cautious using “why” questions since they might make the other person more defensive. For example, the question “Why would you think that?” could sound like you’re questioning how they feel.

Restate their points in your own words.

  1. Repeat things that they’ve said to ensure you’re hearing them correctly. It’s okay if you don’t understand them completely since they’ll be able to correct you while you’re summarizing what they said.
    • For example, you could say, “Let me see if I’m clear about this, you’re upset because I didn’t wash the dishes this morning. Is that correct?”
    • As another example, you could say, “So you’re feeling angry because I made plans this weekend without asking you. Am I understanding that right?”

Validate the other person’s feelings.

  1. Show empathy for them to show you really care. It takes a lot of courage to open up and really talk through things, so let the person know that you understand their emotions. Don’t get defensive or try to question them, but instead let them know that their feelings are valid and justified. It doesn’t matter if you fully agree with them, but it still makes the person feel like you care and shows that you listened to what they told you.
    • For example, you could say, “I completely understand why that situation made you frustrated.”
    • As another example, you might tell them, “I sense that you’re upset and that makes complete sense.”

Avoid giving advice.

  1. The other person might not be asking for a solution to their problem. Rather than trying to solve the issue the person is going through, just be there to listen and validate their experiences. You don’t need to tell them about a similar experience you’ve been through or offer any help if they aren’t looking for it. Before you give any words of advice, make sure you understand their perspective completely and ask them if they’re looking for helpful responses.
    • For example, you could say, “I understand what you’re saying. Is there anything I can do to help out or did you just want to vent?”


  • It’s okay if there’s silence or pauses in the conversation. Take that time to really reflect on what the person said before responding.


  • Avoid making jokes or sarcastic comments while the other person is speaking since it can be distracting and take away from their emotions.
  • If someone doesn’t want to share information when you’re trying to dig deeper, don’t force them to talk. They might feel uncomfortable about the topic or want to keep it private.
  • Try your best not to get defensive about what someone says. If you disagree with them, try to consider things from their perspective.
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