5 ways to become a good listener

The power of listening is multifold

By Delna Mistry Anand

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Published: Thu 2 Feb 2023, 9:38 PM

Have you ever had the need to tell someone something about yourself, and they interrupt you making the story about themselves? “Oh, the exact same thing happened to me too”. Has this happened to you? Have you done that to another?

Quoting Dr George Berkeley, a philosopher from the 1600s, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" One of the popular arguments to this question was that the sound of a falling tree is a human experience that requires a sound vibration to come in contact with the ear, for it to make a sound. And since there was no available ear, there was no sound.

Could this be true of the spoken word too? Just like the falling tree needs a listening ear, doesn’t the spoken word need a listener too? If you are giving a talk, and there’s no one to listen, is that really communication?

Communication is key in creating human connection. Technology has made our communication so easy today, but not necessarily more meaningful. We live in the ‘age of communication’ with a lot of WhatsApp messages (and forwards!), texts, tweets, and emails, and there is just so much talking. Yes, we hear it all, but are we really listening?

Growing up in a convent school, I remember being told by one of our beloved nuns, “We have one mouth but two ears, to listen twice as much as you speak”. It’s only now that I realise the value of these words. And if you study the pattern of successful negotiators, you’ll see that they too, listen far more than they talk.

Good listeners seem to carry this power around with them. They radiate a sense of trust and warmth. Conversations with them usually just flow, leaving you feeling refreshed and understood. Maybe you know someone like this, or maybe it’s you.

Here are some ways to be a good listener:

1) Being present:

A good listener is in the moment; they aren’t thinking of what to say next; they are simply listening to you, your words, your body language, and your tone of voice.

2) The me-too story:

Being a good listener means refraining from jumping in with your own story before the other person finishes theirs. Allow them to speak and share and take your turn when relevant.

3) Non-judgemental:

Try to understand the other’s point of view before making judgments, listen with an open mind, and listen to the full story.

4) Ask questions:

A good listener challenges the speaker with questions (at the right time). It gets the speaker to look at a different perspective and also shows that you care enough to hear them out.

5) Following up:

An important part of listening is remembering what was said, perhaps following up at a later stage, or even simply repeating the name of the person if you have just been introduced.

A good relationship is built on authentic listening skills. Take the time and make the effort to listen. One of the most sincere forms of respect is listening to what others have to say.


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