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How to Listen Effectively

Do you find your spouse often saying, “Are you listening to me?” Or maybe you feel your child is not being an active part of the dinner conversation. If this resonates with you, it might be time to brush up on the finer points of being a good listener, while teaching your family to do the same. Below are 11 tips to help you get back on track so you can start enjoying deeper and more meaningful communication with those you love.

1. Whether at a party or in a business meeting, a good listener will always make eye contact with the person they are speaking with. Put yourself to the test. After you walk away, can you remember the color of their eyes?

2. A respectful listener will not look around the room while speaking with someone. This sends the message you are not interested in what is being said. Give the person your full attention and do not be distracted. After the speaker has finished, you may politely extricate yourself from the conversation.

3. An active listener will mirror back what the speaker is saying.

Speaker: “I just returned from New Zealand.”

Active listener: “You just returned from New Zealand?!? How fabulous! Where did you go during your trip?”

4. An active listener will ask questions, when clarification is needed, but they will not steer the conversation a different direction.

Good Example:

Speaker: “We just returned from our church’s trip to Israel, and it was truly life-changing.”

Active Listener: “I have often heard that it is life-changing. Can you point to anything specific that made you feel this way?

Bad Example:

Speaker: “We just returned from our church’s trip to Israel, and it was truly life-changing.”

Selfish Listener: “You went on the trip with the church? I heard Nancy and her husband were on the trip. Her daughter was supposed to go with them but could not since she is expecting her first baby. I do not think she is pleased with her doctor. Did you hear that medical facility is closing down?”

See what just happened? In the first example, the active listener showed interest in the speaker by seeking more information about the trip and keeping the focus on them. In the second example, the selfish listener diverted the conversation to what SHE wanted to talk about, instead of being a good listener and staying engaged in the subject the speaker brought up. If you find yourself guilty of this, quickly get back on point so the person does not view you as uninterested or selfish.

5. When someone is telling a story, do not interrupt to complete their sentence. I recently attended a party where I attempted to tell a story 3 different times, only to be interrupted at every turn. The person in our group was not intentionally being rude, but they were in a state of excitement and could not calm down enough to be a good, active listener. It was exhausting trying to speak. I finally stopped trying and moved on to another group. An active listener practices patience by focusing on the speaker’s words.

6. Do not just listen to the words. Listen to the tone of the speaker. Our physical body and our words do not always speak the same language. Concentrate on the person’s heart, not just their words, and determine what the speaker is really trying to convey. If someone is upset, their words will come out as complaints, but deep down they are trying to express they are hurting.

7. Let the speaker know you are listening AND interested. Give little tidbits of feedback throughout the conversation. “That must have been very exciting!” Or even a simple, “Oh, wow!”

8. When listening to others, NEVER check your phone. Even just for a quick peek. By taking your eyes away from the conversation, you have allowed someone else (the person on the other end of the phone) to interrupt your conversation. If someone walked up and interrupted your conversation in person, you would not allow this, because it is rude. Think of your phone as a person because guess what? It is! Just in digital format.

9. If you are in the middle of a project and your spouse comes into the room and begins talking, put down what you are doing, make eye contact, and give them your attention. If you cannot take a long break at the moment say, “I want to focus on what you are saying. Give me two more minutes to finish this task, and then I can give you my full attention.” Or, “I have a deadline I am trying to meet. I want to hear what you have to say. May we talk at dinner?”

10. Body language is important if you are to be an active listener. Good posture, whether standing or sitting, will tell the speaker if you are interested or bored. When someone is speaking, lean forward and show you are physically engaged. Stay within 18”-24” of the person you are speaking with. Any further back and your body language will be screaming, “I’m trying to leave this conversation!”

11. Repeat back to the speaker what you heard them say. This becomes more important when you are engaged in talks that are not just social in nature. In a marriage, you might say, “Let me make sure I understand what you are asking me to do.” This is good active listening, and it greatly improves communication. It is amazing how often two people hear things differently. By clarifying the comments, you will save yourself a lot of problems later.

Together with you,

Lisa Lou


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