3 Simple Keys to Becoming a Better Listener

Do you ever find yourself feeling frustrated when trying to talk with your significant other or your child? Do get caught up in arguments seemingly out of nowhere? Do you find yourself saying: “we just can’t communicate?” If you answered “yes” to any of these questions this article is for you!

Most of the time when we have a disagreement or conflict with someone our tendency is to blame the other person, perhaps saying that they’re being “stubborn” or that “they don’t listen.” While this is a very human tendency and it is tempting to put the responsibility for the conflict on the other person, the downside is that doing this prevents us from resolving conflicts more quickly and keeps us from building more intimate connections with those we care about. If we want to build better relationships we must take responsibility for our role in any conflict and put in a 100% effort toward resolving it. The reality is that we can all improve the way we communicate. If you agree, read on…

I would like to offer a few simple suggestions that will help you become a better communicator by first becoming a better listener. Everyone likes to feel heard and understood, and if we give that to other people, chances are that we can end conflict much more quickly, solve problems more smoothly, and encourage others to listen to us, too.

  1. Listen with your whole body. Turn your body toward the other person, stay at eye level (if you’re talking to a child or someone who is sitting down you may want to crouch or sit), make eye contact, nod your head to indicate that you’re following what they’re saying.

  2. Listen to understand. Too often, especially when we disagree with someone, we focus on how we’re going to respond in order to “win” the argument or show that we are right and they are wrong. Instead, we must focus on understanding the other person’s perspective. This doesn’t mean that we have to agree, but rather simply trying to get clear on how they’re thinking and feeling.

  3. Paraphrase what you hear. In your own words tell them what you understood from what they said. Stay focused on the message itself rather than drawing any conclusions. Check in with them by asking whether you’re understanding them accurately. This provides an excellent opportunity for clarification, if necessary, and it will help your loved one really feel validated and heard.

If you employ these keys consistently and start with listening more, you will experience a significant shift in your communication and in your relationships. Remember that the only person you can control is yourself, so begin the change with yourself, by becoming a model of what you want to see, as Ghandi taught us.

For more great strategies to help you improve your relationships, see my earlier posts Enhancing Marital Communication: The Power of ONE and The 5 secrets of Effective Communication.

I wish you all happy, nurturing, and successful relationships!

Dr. Raquel Muller