The Self Help Book: 6 Practical Ways To Never Stop Growing | ORDER NOW

Listen More, Talk Less: Expert Techniques to Develop Your Active Listening Skills

The following is adapted from The Self Help Book by Jared Graybeal.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is my superior, in that, I learn of him,” which basically means that we can learn something from everyone. 

Unfortunately, most of us would rather talk than listen. 

You’d be amazed by how much people have to offer if you take the time to pay attention to what they are saying rather than be consumed with the thoughts about what you are going to say in response. Now, this habit is widespread and partially effective! Most of us prefer to keep up a seamless conversation where we get to put forward our most intelligent and creative thoughts.

However, I’d assert that practicing active and empathetic listening will actually help you have better conversations.  

What are active and empathetic listening? 

Active listening is a technique that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said and sometimes involves repeating back what has been said. 

Empathetic listening involves paying attention to another person with emotional identification, compassion, feeling, and insight. One basic principle is to connect emotionally with another person while simultaneously attempting to connect cognitively. 

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be a better listener. Becoming an active and empathetic listener is about developing completely new habits, which means you’ll have to get rid of old habits, and old habits are hard to break. If your listening skills are anywhere near as bad as mine, then you’ll need to do a lot of work over time to make this change. 

But don’t worry! It’s not hopeless. You can learn to be a better active listener. Let’s start with a few basics. 

Approach each conversation with a goal to learn something. 

Before you engage in a conversation, make the conscious decision that you are going to intentionally learn something. If you’re type A (like me), goal setting is a huge hack when it comes to interpersonal exchanges. I try to set a goal of remembering people’s names, and because of that, I am much better at remembering names than I used to be. If you apply this to your conversations, you will become a much better listener right away. 

Pay attention. 

This involves eliminating distractions. 

Put your phone away or put it face down. I have to do this because I have a really hard time focusing. If a text pops up on my phone, either I’m going to look down and check it, or I have to consciously avoid looking down. Both take my attention away from who is talking.

The same goes for any other type of distractions, such as email, a project you might be working on, or whatever show you’ve got on, or even music in the background. 

Show that you’re listening. 

Don’t look down or around while the other person is talking. Make a comfortable (but not creepy) amount of eye contact, and nod when necessary to acknowledge that you’re following along. Encourage the person you’re talking to to keep talking by giving short affirmations like, “Yes,” “Okay,” and, “Uh-huh.”

Ask appropriate questions. 

You can’t expect everyone to be great communicators. A lot of people have a hard time making their point or telling a good story. Asking them questions helps them along the process at the same time it gives you a greater understanding and more clarity, and it shows that you’re listening. 

Provide feedback when the time is right. 

There will come a time when the person you’re speaking to allows for a response, or for some type of feedback. They most likely won’t say, “What’s your feedback?” He or she might just pause for a second after telling you something with the expectation of you responding. This is your opportunity to tell them what you think. 

Do your best to give a non biased response, especially if you don’t know this person very well. If this is someone you do know well, judgment and some form of bias might be inevitable, so always make sure to give context.

Embrace awkward silences. 

Unlike the above instance, this is usually an obvious moment of necessary silence. Maybe the speaker is getting emotional, or just trying to gather their thoughts. Most of us are so conditioned to expecting others to butt in during a pause, so the speaker might be rushing to get their point across and fumbling over their thoughts. This is your opportunity to show the speaker that you are present, and you are paying attention, and what they are saying matters. 

Respond appropriately.

Now that you’ve listened intently, you’ve asked the right questions, and you’ve allowed the speaker to get everything out, you should have a level-headed, educated, and relevant response. Whether this is a conversation or an argument, now is your time to respond. Be candid and honest, but assert yourself respectfully. 

Start using these techniques today to become a better listener, communicator, friend, spouse, coworker, and leader. 

Remember that it will take time. 

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be a better listener. Becoming an active and empathetic listener is about developing completely new habits, which means you’ll have to get rid of old habits, and old habits are hard to break. If your listening skills are anywhere near as bad as mine, then you’ll need to do a lot of work over time to make this change. 

However, once you do, I believe your conversations and connections with people will improve dramatically. 

For more advice on improved communication, you can find The Self Help Book on Amazon.

My mission is to encourage, educate, and empower others to live happier, healthier lives. I am a NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, behavioral change specialist, CrossFit Level 2 trainer, and corrective exercise specialist with an education in marketing and psychology from the University of North Florida. I own and operate two companies. One is Superfit Foods, a healthy, subscription-based, fully customizable meal prep company. The other is E3, a business consulting and marketing agency. I’ve done a few cool things, like exhibiting Superfit Foods at Forbes Under 30 and giving a TEDx Talk on nutrition and mental health, and every day I get to work hard at doing what I love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for 'the sunday 6'

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.