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How to Improve Active Listening Skills

How to Improve Active Listening Skills

How to improve active listening skills.

Listening is an important communication skill. Being a good listener promotes better understanding of colleagues, reduces conflict and enhances personal relationships.

Listening is also one of the primary methods you have for gathering information.

How many times have you sat in a meeting and afterwards cannot remember what went on? You were either mentally distracted or you were not actively listening to what people were saying.

Here are five ways to improve your active listening skills:

  1. Give the other person your undivided attention.
  2. Don't try to trump the other persons' story.
  3. Try to visualise what the other is saying.
  4. Ask clarifying questions.
  5. Consider their feelings.

1. Give the other person your undivided attention.

The key to good listening is to pay attention. Many people only pretend to listen, when in reality, they are thinking about what they want to say, when the current speaker stops talking.

Give the other person your full, undivided attention.

Don't allow yourself to be distracted by your own thoughts or other things around you. Instead, look at your speaker, and pay close attention to the content of their message.

2. Don't try to trump the other person's story.

Don't fall into the trap of competing with the other person.

If Bob says, "I've had a tough day", then don't compete by saying, "You've had a tough day? Wait until you hear about my day!"

Treating conversation as if it were a competition is a bad-habit.

Don't compete. Allow the other person to take the limelight.

3. Try to visualise what the other is saying.

As you listen, don't be mentally passive. Be active.

Actively try to visualise what the other is saying, so that you can see it as, "a movie in the mind".

The ability to take the other person's words and see them in your mind's-eye is the crux of active listening.

This "mental-movie making" requires a conscious effort on your part. It does require effort, but you will reap the rewards.

4. Ask clarifying questions.

Some people speak using ambiguous language and it is almost impossible to fully visualise what they mean.

If you cannot form a mental image, then ask additional questions, until you can.

If the speaker says something you disagree with, don't' argue with them directly. Instead, ask questions.

Ask questions that will give the specifics of a situation. For example, if Bob says, "He disrespected me." then, that sentence is impossible to visualise, until you know exactly HOW Bob was disrespected.

"When you say that, what do you mean specifically?".

"If we did that, what do you think would happen?"

Ask "What do you think caused it?" "What else happened?" or "Who else was involved?" "When did it happen?" and "Where did it happen?"

5. Consider their feelings.

Everything that happens triggers an emotional response. So, it is often good to ask, "How did you feel about that?"

Most people like to talk about their feelings, so this is a particularly good question to keep the conversation going.

Empathise with them, even if their feelings are based on beliefs you don't share.

Listening to develop better relationships

Listening is a great way to build relationships because most people are more interested in their own opinion than in your opinion.

So listen to what they have to say, without too much interruption and without too many arguments. This does not mean that you have to agree with everything the other person says, it just means that you shouldn't make an issue of it. By the clever use of questions you can often get your point of view across.

To promote conversation, give the other person a generous supply of smiles, nods, affirmations and encouragements.

Let the other person do 80% of the talking, and you will find that you will gain the reputation for being a good conversationalist; which is interesting because you didn't say much. You mostly listened. Good listeners are good conversationalists!

Improve Your Brain Power

If you are interested in improving your memory, we recommend our blog "The Single Best Way to Improve Your Brain Power" which details a great way to boost your memory.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Listening Skills

  • How to Ask Good Questions
    People are judged by their questions rather than by their answers. Are you stuck in a rut, not progressing in your career? Learning to ask good questions is key to your learning and understanding. Here are some great questions you can use.
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  • Three Levels of Listening
    Listening is one aspect of communication, and which can be categorised into 3 different levels. How do you listen? Do you pretend to listen, or do you listen with intent to criticise or disapprove, or do you listen to understand?
    Read Article >
  • How to Improve Active Listening Skills
    Active listening is a useful skill to master, not only you will gain a more in-depth understanding of what is being talked about, but Managers who are active listeners will develop a better working relationship with their team.
    Read Article >
  • How to ask the right questions
    How to ask the right questions Communication skills training includes how to ask the right questions. In any conversation, there is always the danger of some misinterpretation of the meaning of the message. The causes of the misinterpretation are many and each cause can be averted by asking the right question...
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  • Communication Skills: Listen-out for What is Not Being Said
    When listening to another person who is trying to convince you to accept an idea, or opinion, it is often very important to listen out for what is NOT being said, ie you need to be concerned with what the other person is taking for granted.
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Looking for Communication Skills Training?

If you're looking to develop your Listening Skills, you may find this Communication Skills Training Course beneficial:

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