To be truly heard is to feel seen.
It’s to feel understood.
It’s to feel unburdened.
To feel truly heard is to receive a great gift – the gift of being listened to, without judgement, without interruption, without the other person making it about themselves.
But how many of us are blessed with the capability of really listening to another person?
For most of us, it doesn’t come naturally, because we want our say, we want to be heard too.
The good news is that it is a skill that can be learned and practiced.
The key to success of any and every relationship is good communication.
And good communication involves both listening and speaking. Most of us manage the speaking part but how often do we give the gift of truly listening?
Learning to listen to understand rather than listening to reply is so important in both establishing and developing relationships with friends, family, colleagues, partners, clients and anyone else in your life.
Listening to reply is the standard way that most people communicate. This means that instead of really paying attention to what the other person is saying, we are thinking about what we want to say in response.
This can be particularly true when at networking or social events where you are rehearsing in your head what you are going to say when it’s your turn to speak.
Listening to understand demonstrates that you are indeed listening to them and not off in your own world or just waiting for them to stop talking so you can start talking about yourself.
True listening involves giving the other person your undivided attention — giving them that precious and rare gift of time.
And while you might be good at listening, here are some tips that will help you become GREAT at listening.
Top 9 tips for being a great listener
1. Look at the person speaking
Maintain friendly eye contact — but don’t stare — it’s okay to glance away now and then. When we are processing things, we often look up to the left for a few seconds - this is quite normal.
Don’t gaze about the room as it makes the speaker feel you don’t really want to be talking to them.
2. Don’t let other things distract you
Be attentive but relaxed.
No sneaky peaks at your smartphone or other electronic device.
Block out the noise of other conversations around you.
Don’t go wandering off in your own head — stay present with the speaker.
3. Listen without judging or criticizing
Keep an open mind and try not to jump to conclusions even if you disagree.
Don’t assume you know more about a situation than the person speaking — it’s THEIR situation and we all think and feel differently to each other to some degree.
This is an opportunity to see things from a point of view different to your own and understand the person, and the world, a little better.
4. Don’t interrupt
It’s so tempting to say something when a thought comes into your head — try, try, try to resist butting in.
Wait for a long pause in the conversation. Why a LONG pause? Because sometimes the speaker is about to sort the whole thing out and have an epiphany – a process you could halt or at least delay if you speak.
If you feel you have vital information or knowledge to impart, ask permission, ensure it is very short and very relevant, then apologise for interrupting and ask the speaker to continue.
5. Don’t offer a solution to their problem unless asked
Mostly, people just want to be HEARD.
Some people understand this inherently. Others want to fix any problem they hear about — DON’T. Please try to refrain from helping unless invited.
At least seek permission first rather than offering unsolicited advice — a simple “May I offer a suggestion?” will suffice.
Often simply talking to a good listener helps people sort out their issue by clarifying and articulating the problem. You help them enormously by quietly listening.
6. Only ask questions that clarify what the speaker is saying
Help keep the conversation on track by NOT asking questions that will head off on a tangent. Let the speaker deliver the message they are trying to give.
Wait for a pause and ask for permission to ask a question.
Relevant questions show you are truly interested and engaged but try to keep them to the absolute minimum.
7. Show empathy
Empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling so you are in the moment with them. This can take some concentration but is the heart and soul of listening and one of the BEST ways to quickly build rapport.
Use your facial expressions eg if they are talking about something that made them sad, FEEL their sadness and let your face express that.
8. Pay attention to their non-verbal cues
The actual words spoken are only part of the whole story.
Look for cues such as tone of voice, posture, energy levels and facial expressions to gain a better understanding of how someone is really feeling.
9. Use body language to show your interest
Nod your head to give positive feedback.
Maintain an open and relaxed posture without hostile or defensive moves such as folding your arms.
To demonstrate interest in someone and what they have to say, try subtly mirroring their posture eg If they have their hands folded in their lap then do the same.
Learning better listening skills is a process, but it’s well worth it to have the people around you feel more supported and understood. It improves communication, promotes deeper connection and helps build trust – all vital factors in every kind of relationship.
Who can you give the gift of truly listening to this week?