Secrets of Great Listeners
by Susie Michelle Cortright
makes our loved ones feel worthy, appreciated,
interesting, and respected. Ordinary conversations
emerge on a deeper level, as do our relationships.
When we listen, we also foster that skill in
others by modeling positive and effective communication.
our marriages, effective communication brings
greater intimacy. Listening to our kids helps
build their self-esteem and the parent-child
bond. In the business world, listening saves
time and money by preventing misunderstandings.
And we always learn more when we listen more
than when we talk.
skills fuel our social, emotional and professional
success, and studies prove it is a skill anyone
can learn. The technique for active listening
is really an extension of the Golden Rule. To
know how to listen to someone else, think about
how you would want to be listened to. While
the ideas are largely intuitive, it might take
some practice to develop (or re-develop) the
skills. Here's what good listeners know - and
you should, too.
1. Face the Speaker
Sit up straight or lean forward slightly
to show your attentiveness through body
2. Maintain eye contact
To the degree that you both remain comfortable,
maintain eye contact. Do not let your gaze
wander to other people or other activities
taking place in the room.
3. Minimize external distractions
Turn off the TV. Put down your book or magazine,
and ask the speaker and other listeners
to do the same.
4. Respond appropriately to show that you
Murmur ("uh-huh" and "um-hmm")
and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Acknowledge
the speaker's point by making comments such
as, "Really," or "Interesting."
Also include more direct prompts such as,
"What did you do then?" and "What
did she say?"
5. Focus solely on what the speaker is
Try not to think about what you are going
to say next. The conversation will follow
a logical flow after the speaker makes her
6. Minimize internal distractions
If your own thoughts keep intruding, simply
let them go and purposely re-focus your
attention on the speaker.
7. Keep an open mind
Wait until the speaker is finished before
deciding that you disagree. Try not to make
assumptions about what the speaker is thinking
or what they will say next.
8. Avoid letting the speaker know how you
handled a similar situation
Unless she specifically asks for advice,
assume she just needs to talk it out.
9. Even if the speaker is launching a complaint
against you, wait until she finishes to
By doing this, the speaker will feel satisfied
that she made her point. She won't feel
the need to repeat it, and you'll know the
whole argument before you respond. Research
shows that, on average, we can hear four
times faster than we can talk, so we have
the ability to sort ideas as they come in
be ready for more.
10. Engage yourself
Ask questions for clarification, but, once
again, wait until the speaker has finished.
That way, you won't interrupt her train
of thought. After you ask questions, paraphrase
her point to make sure you understand. Start
with: "So you're saying
you work on developing your listening skills,
you may feel a bit panicky when there is a natural
pause in the conversation. What should you say
next? Learn to settle into the silence and use
it to better understand all points of view.
as your listening skills improve, so will your
aptitude for conversation. A friend of my husband's
once complimented me on my conversational skills.
I hadn't said more than four words, but I had
listened to him for 25 minutes.
Michelle Cortright is the author of several
books for women and founder of the award-winning
Momscape.com, a website designed to help busy
women find balance. Visit http://www.momscape.com
today and get Susie's *free* course-by-email
"6 Days to Less Stress."