Listen up! The unspoken part of a conversation.


Fifty percent of all communication involves listening. Knowing how to listen well can improve your communication skills and relationships. I talk a lot, too much sometimes, but I also make an effort to ensure I listen and ask questions as much as I talk. Am I successful at it? Only my family and friends can say for sure, but I really do try! However, I couldn’t find many photos of me listening to anyone so that might be telling. But I also thought the puppies were super cute!

There are five basic steps to good listening.

1.Give the conversation your full attention.
Deal with distractions before you begin talking to someone or postpone the discussion until you have taken care of any distractions. Think about some things that might prevent you from being present during a discussion before talking. When distractions do come up, try to keep them from interrupting your conversation. For example, if you receive a text or call, don’t respond.

2.Ask good questions.

Cheerful young friends having fun in a cafe
When you ask good questions during a conversation, you give the other person a feeling of value and that you are paying attention to what they’re saying. Some questions encourage information sharing and new ideas. Some questions encourage “yes” or “no” answers and keep conversations short and controlled.

Also, avoid questions that seem like you’re criticizing.

Which of the following questions encourage a positive response?

  • How do you feel…?
  • Why did you…?
  • Why can’t you…?
  • What if we…?

The first and fourth questions encourage a positive response. The second and third questions sound accusatory, so if you start off a question with a negative tone, you can expect to get a negative response.

3.Demonstrate to the other person that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying.
Feedback assures others that you’re listening to them. There are some ways you can show you’re listening.

  • Use small verbal responses such as “I see” or “I agree”.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Nod your head during the conversation when appropriate.
  • Be empathetic, for example, use a phrase such as “It sounds like you’re worried.”
  • Don’t speak when the other person is speaking.

4.Restate important points during the conversation.
When you restate key parts of the conversation, you reassure the other person and yourself that you got it right. Some statements that can help you do that include the following.

  • “So you’re saying that…?”
  • “Let me make sure I understand. You want me …?”

5.Respond with your reactions.

Calm Women in Conversation
Be sincere. Let the person know what effect their communication has on you. Avoid judging other people. If criticism is necessary, discuss their actions, not their personalities, moods, profession, race, gender or other personal matters. For example, you can use a statement like the one below.

  • “When you said … it made me feel like this…”

State your conclusions or course of action and make sure you follow up.

One of the best ways to make these five steps a natural part of your conversation is to practice them in fictional situations.  Take turns being the listener with someone who raises one of the following issues.

  • “You offered to help me, but so far you haven’t been available.”
  • “I find you difficult to work with.”
  • “The mess in this house is getting on my nerves.”

These are some of my tips. Do you have any tips that can improve listening skills?

44 replies »

  1. It is the worst tactic to use so u try to control myself and if I do slip I do spend the time to explain what I really meant in a nicest way possible without hearing more the conversation. Thanks so much Aldo 🙂


  2. Thank you Samantha for the strategies. Sometimes when I listen to others speak, I tend to get easily distracted and lose focus or mind drifts elsewhere. I need to really push myself to maintain my listening skills.


  3. Fantastic tips Sam. I am still working on calming my nerves first before I can start communicating. I couldn’t agree more with you about judging other or criticizing while arguing. It is the worst tactic to use so u try to control myself and if I do slip I do spend the time to explain what I really meant in a nicest way possible without hearing more the conversation. Being self aware of your emotions or feelings or communication skills is very critical when arguing so that is what I am working on. Thanks for sharing


  4. I too have to work on my listening skills. My bipolar plays a part and also growing up in competition with others who talk over each other. These are great tips! I know that when I’ve done some of the things that you’ve suggested that the responses have been very positive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for sharing your story. You shared two extremely valuable pieces of information as to why it becomes natural to talk vs. listen. I am really glad to hear that these have worked for you too. I found people more responsive as well when I started putting these into practice. I really appreciate your comment. I hope you have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 1 person

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