Posted by: Jason | June 10, 2012

How to be a Better Listener

This week I want to talk about something a bit different. We focus all the time in communications classes on how to speak. Most of the exercises that we do are based around you, the student, having some sort of conversation. It’s very active. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all need to be able to talk. But, there’s the other side of the coin. We all need to be able to sit back and listen. If all you do is talk, you’re not really communicating, you’re just speaking. Conversation has to be a two way street. That means that sometimes, it’s better to receive than to give.

Here are some famous quotations about listening:

  • Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.
    —Publilius Syrus
    First Century BC, Maxim 914
  • “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
    — Winston Churchill
  • If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.
    — Turkish Proverb

What all of these sayings really mean is that to listen to someone and really understand what they are saying, makes you a much better conversationalist.  So, what strategies can you try to be a better listener.  Well, here’s a few ideas:

  • Never assume that you understand what the other person is saying.  Always clarify and check that you really do understand.  Questions like, “I’m sorry, but, I’m not really clear about this.  Could you go over it again?” are very helpful.
  • Try to ask questions that will put the other person at ease.  If the other person says something that you don’t like, it might simply be that you didn’t understand.  Again, clarify.  Make sure that you really understand before you react.
  • BE PATIENT!!!!  This is probably the number one, most important thing about listening.  You have to be willing to take the time to do it right.  Don’t rush.  And don’t get frustrated.  Or, at least, try not to get frustrated.

What other things do you think you could do to be a better listener?

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