Active listening

How To Listen Rather Than Hear: Tips For Better Communication and Active Listening


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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

29 Nov, 2022

Have you ever engaged in a conversation with someone that clearly isn’t fully present? They may have asked you how your day was, but as soon as you elaborate on your chaotic morning their eyes gloss over and begin to wander. 

It’s a terrible feeling and not one you’d want to impose on another person. But how do you know if you’re an active or passive listener? 

Communication is vital for establishing relationships with others. Not only do we show respect and engagement with the words we say, but in the way, we listen to others. 

Active listening is one of the easiest ways to show someone that their words matter to you. So how is this done? 

How can we improve our communication skills in a way that deepens our connection with others? 

Let’s discuss this a bit more so you too can enhance one of the most critical skills of all time. 

What Is Active Listening?

We all know what listening is. We listen to retain information, understand someone, or learn something new. But what is active listening?

When simply listening, you hear the words being said but can often miss the entire message.

Active listening means not only taking in the words, but observing body language, tone of voice, and background information to fully understand what is being said. As they talk, you may nod your head as you show them you understand what message they’re relaying. This also means putting away any distractions such as your cell phone to show complete focus on the other person.

Active listening means preparing yourself to give active feedback to the other person by asking questions or giving your thoughts on a particular subject. This keeps the conversation going rather than leaving it one-sided.

Why Is Active Listening So Important?

There are many benefits to active listening. Active listening shows the other person that you’re paying attention and care deeply about what is being said. 

As you do so, you build trust in your relationship with the other person. They feel safe and comfortable talking with you since they have established you as an attentive listener. 

In addition, active listening means hearing the full message and eliminating the possibility of missing out on important information. 

Active listening is a wonderful tool to use in conflict resolution as it allows each person to voice their side without interruptions or argumentative attitudes. This enables the conflict to be handled at a mature level as each person can speak about how they feel safe. 

How To Be a Better Communicator

Think about a meaningful conversation you’ve had in your life. Why does that memory stick out to you? Whomever this conversation was with was likely fully engaged and attentive, which in turn allowed the conversation to flow and flourish. 

In a world that is so interconnected with the ability to contact anyone at any time, anywhere, you’d think we would all be professional communicators at this point, right? Quite the opposite! With the ease and simplicity of technology, we’ve lost the ability to communicate on a personal level. 

Here are a few tips to help you become a better communicator:

  • Talk to people, rather than at people.

  • Listen to the other person more often than you speak

  • Make sure your tone of voice is in check

  • Make the conversation more about them than yourself

  • Ask questions 

  • Be as honest as you can 

  • Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing 

  • Go with the flow

  • Don’t interrupt 

  • Keep your words simple 

It may seem like a daunting list but at the core of being a good communicator lies the idea that the other person is more important than you. Ask about them, listen to what they have to say, and respond appropriately. As you do so, you’ll find your conversations become much deeper and more meaningful. 

Final Thoughts

It takes work and focus to be an active listener. It may come down to you simply breaking old habits. If you’re someone that struggles with interrupting others, take that under your wing first. You don’t have to set out to do all of these tips right away but rather take a minute to self-reflect on what areas of communication you find yourself struggling in. Do you find the conversation often dies quickly? It’s likely you’re not asking questions, let alone open-ended ones. If you continue to struggle there may be deeper issues at play, learn more about them from a qualified therapist today.

It’s simple. Pay attention, listen without distraction, and ask questions in return. Communication is key, and your relationships will thrive because of it.


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Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

Emma is an accomplished writer with a passion for mental health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology where she gained insight into why people think, feel and behave the way they do.

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