How to Become a Better Listener: 10 Simple Tips

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”
Ernest Hemingway

“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.”

One social habit that I used to be quite bad at was to truly listen when other people spoke. I sometimes zoned out. I got distracted or my attention started to wander before they were done talking.

Or I just waited for my turn to talk again (while thinking about what I should say next).

Not very helpful. So things had to change.

This week I’d like to share 10 simple tips that helped me – and still help me – to become a better listener.

I hope they will help you and your relationships too.

1. Keep in mind: Listening is win/win.

How to Become a Better Listener: 10 Simple Tips

Many may not listen that well because they think they don’t get much out of it personally.

But the better you listen, the better they will listen to you.  And the better and deeper the relationship will be.

If you focus on understanding him or her and on giving value based on that then you’ll get the same thing back.

This reminder has been a powerful motivator for me to become a better listener.

2. Tell yourself that you’ll tell someone else about this conversation later on.

One of the best ways to remember something better is to know that you are going to tell what you learned to someone else.

Then you’ll be more alert, naturally start asking more questions to understand and what is said – in my experience – simply seems to stick better.

Plus, you’ll stop focusing so much on what to say next and so the conversation tends to flow better.

3. Keep the eye-contact.

Looking everywhere except at the person talking can make it seem like you are not listening. And then the conversation suffers.

So keep the eye-contact. I found it easier to start doing this more often when I:

  • Took it step-by-small-step and improved my eye-contact time in conversations over the span of a few months.
  • Focused my gaze at just one of the other person’s eyes at time.

4. Keep that smart phone away.

Browsing the internet on your phone or your computer while trying to listen usually leads missing some part of the conversation and to the person talking feeling like he or she is not listened to.

So put that phone down while listening if you don’t need it to check something or write something down as a part of the conversation.

5. Summarize what was said.

I have found that taking a few seconds to summarize what someone just said – like a longer segment about what happened at work or in a relationship – makes it a lot easier to make sure I’ve understood what happened.

As I say that summary out loud the other person can adjust or correct my understanding and so I can add my perspective, thoughts or questions in a better way based on that rather than my assumptions about what happened and of how the other person’s experienced this situation.

Or I can take some kind of action based on what they actually meant and not what I thought they meant (for example in a work setting where a misunderstanding could lead to frustration and time lost if you misunderstand).

6. Ask instead of trying to mind-read.

Reading someone’s mind is quite difficult. Most of the time impossible. Still, so many of us have tried to do it and started conversations based on that too many times.

So when you feel an impulse to assume and mind-read stop that and start being curious and ask open-ended questions.

Going for this kind of question instead of the ones where the other person can just answer a yes or a no will help him/her to open up and to start explaining and sharing what is going on.

7. Get some fresh air and/or exercise.

Few things make it so hard to follow along in a conversation as a tired and foggy head.

Two things that can keep that energy and mental clarity up are to open a window or to take a walk outside to get both some exercise and some fresh air.

Exercising regularly a bit more intensely a few times a week also makes it easier to fully be there when you want to and need to listen.

8. When you listen, just listen.

Don’t interrupt. Don’t jump in with solutions (this one can be a hard one in my experience).

Just be present in the moment and listen fully to what the other person has to say and let him or her speak until the entire message is said.

Sometimes that is also all that’s needed. For someone to truly listen as we vent for a few minutes and figure things out for ourselves.

9. Be honest about your current limitations.

If you’re in a rush or feel very tired or stressed out let the other person know.

If you have listened for long while and your mind has hit its limit and starts to wander and you need a break and maybe something to eat say that too.

It is better for the both of you to be honest and to continue the conversation later on rather than trying to fake undivided attention or to try to keep the listening up when you honestly just can’t.

10. Share what you have done in a similar situation.

When asked for advice while listening or when it seems appropriate – not when the other person just needs to vent and get things out – share what you have done in the same situation or a similar one and what worked well for you.

That gives a lot more weight to your input than just random advice or opinions about what you think could work.

Free Exclusive Happiness Tips

Subscribe to The Positivity Newsletter and get weekly tips on happiness, self-esteem and plenty more.

You’ll also get three free guides on how to stop being lazy, what to do when life sucks and 21 things I wish they’d taught me in school.

100% privacy and no spam. You can unsubscribe anytime.

About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • One of the best articles on this topic I have seen. Like discovering Re-reading it is quite helpful to me! Thinking of sharing it with both my real-estate Clients and my students (during my stint as a substitute French teacher for a colleague undergoing treatment for cancer this Winter / early Spring @McDonogh School). Students’ exuberance in the “me,me, me” time of their lives often blocks their listening radar !! I need particularly to practice #5,#6,#8 and, oh # 2, “Nacherzählung” and show honor / respect to the other person of expressing one’s own limits/ boundaries in the timing of conversation.

  • How about being genuinely interested in the people around you.

  • Love your advice because it’s very true that we often don’t pay enough attention to listening. I for one love to talk but have found your blog to be a lesson I needed to learn and will be taking your advice on board! Thank you!

  • You have two ears and one mouth. listen twice as much as you talk.

  • “The single most important key to success is to be a good listener.”
    Kelly Wearstler

  • I so appreciate this post! Since I started my MA in counselling…I’ve been realizing what a bad listener I am. So often, we listen to respond, not actually listen to what the person is sharing. Learning to listen takes practice and patience AND energy….whew…and that’s why I appreciate #9. We’re not always 100% able to be fully present all the time.

  • I love these tips! Listening is part of good communication and communication is what holds relationships together. And like you said, listening helps both parties to feel more connected to each other.

    Thanks for sharing these!



    My biggest problem.
    I always want to talk and have my say…maby because I am not sure of myself

  • Carl

    very good/easy to follow points. thank you!

  • Flourish peters

    Love everything about your tips(all of them)… Great, inspiring and encouraging.

  • Thank you for sharing! I needed this so much. If there is no clarity in communication there’s no point in communicating.

    Keep smiling,

  • wonderful point. I believe we must also check our talk/listen ratio for us to be better listeners. This will help you ensure that you are doing more listening than talking. and it will show how selfish you are by wanting to dominate the conversation. also, remember geniuses are geniuses because they listen to anyone’s ideas and mix with their ideas and then they come up with an invention

  • Memoona Qureshi

    Very helpful. Thanks for making the effort to teach us how to be better listeners. God bless you.