Listening is a skill, we all think we have it but in truth when we are in conversations we listen to respond, rather than to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling.

So how do you become a better listener so you can help family and friends? Here are 5 tips from the therapy room

Give them your attention. 100%. No distractions.

Choose a moment when you aren’t busy, if you are doing something and they come to you (I find my kids always want to talk when I am busy), stop and and focus on them.

If you can’t have a full blown conversation right then and there, acknowledge what they are saying and ask if if you can finish up so you can give them 100%

Relax your body even if they are tense

When we have conversations we subconsciously mirror each other’s body language, if the other person is scared, defensive or angry make sure you are relaxed, facing the person and your body is open (so no crossed arms or legs)

Listen to feeling words and acknowledge them

When someone talks we often listen, we hear what might or even might not be aimed at us and react to it. Instead of listening to “you make me…” “you don’t….” listen to what feeling words they are using – are they hurting, angry, sad, upset, struggling, scared, confused?

Repeat it back to them “I hear you are feeling hurt because of….”

Ask open questions that need more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers

These often start with what, when, where, who and how. They encourage people to expand on what they are thinking or feeling and help them explore what’s going on

Don’t expect constant eye contact or for them to act like they are giving you 100% attention

Not everyone is comfortable with eye contact. Remember to look away so they don’t feel they are being scrutinised and don’t demand they look at you when they or you speak.

Some people fidget or act busy when they are trying to talk, this doesn’t mean they aren’t listening it’s how they cope with or process all the built up thoughts and feelings

Sometimes the safer and more at ease they become this will lessen, other times this is normal behaviour for them (or you).


Did you find these tips helpful? What other tips do you use that have helped you listen more effectively?


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