Qualities of a Good Listener and How To Be One in 6 Steps

Updated February 3, 2023

Six circles representing active listening skills: Clarify, Withhold judgement, Share, Pay attention, Summarize and Reflect

Good listening skills play a vital role in today's business world. Being a good listener, often referred to as "active listening," allows you to build relationships and ensure understanding with your coworkers. Although listening seems like an intuitive ability, there are several things you can do to improve your listening skills.

In this article, we discuss what it means to be a good listener and what you can do to become a better and more effective listener in your workplace.

What is a good listener?

A good listener is someone who focuses completely on what another person is saying and engages with their ideas in a thoughtful, comprehensive way. Good listening is not just about learning what a person is saying, but making a commitment to digesting the information they are presenting and responding constructively.

Whether through questions, suggestions or simply providing your thoughts when it is necessary, a good listener is one that actively engages with the material they are listening to. How a person listens to something is just as important as whether they are listening at all.

Related: 6 Ways To Overcome Listening Barriers

Why is it important to be a good listener?

Being a good listener can help make you a better leader and professional in the workplace regardless of your position. Whether you're a manager in charge of a team or looking to provide support to coworkers, improving your listening skills can help you succeed in your professional career.

Instead of letting yourself become distracted easily or letting yourself miss important information, practicing and becoming a better listener can help you stay focused on the things that are important and improve your communication skills.

Related: Building Communication Skills: 9 Types of Listening

How to be a better listener

Being a good listener can help you become a more valuable asset to your team. Follow these steps to improve your listening skills:

1. Give the speaker your undivided attention

Distractions can make it difficult to focus on the things a speaker is telling you. To become a good listener, limit as many distractions as possible and give the speaker your undivided attention. This includes silencing your phone, turning off your computer and avoiding the urge to multitask by checking emails or giving attention to other tasks. This can help you focus on the speaker, ensuring that you're taking in everything that they are saying.

It is also important to be aware you take the time to give the speaker your undivided attention. Managing your time correctly can help you ensure you can limit distractions while you are listening.

2. Provide appropriate nonverbal communication

Providing a speaker with the appropriate nonverbal cues can help them feel more at ease and comfortable as you listen to them. Nonverbal communication helps you listen and provide your support without having to interrupt your speaker. This can include maintaining sufficient eye contact, sitting up straight and smiling when appropriate. Proper nonverbal communication while listening can also help the speaker feel more at ease and more likely to openly communicate their ideas.

Related: Nonverbal Communication Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Pace the conversation

Being a good listener often includes opening a dialogue and allowing for a conversation to start between you and the speaker. Pace the conversation by determining the goal of the speaker's message and evaluating their nonverbal cues to decide when it's appropriate to respond. Instead of rushing to fill silences, let the speaker finish their thoughts and acknowledge their message accordingly. This will also give you time to absorb their message and process what they are saying before it's time to respond.

4. Ask meaningful questions

Once it is time to open up a dialogue, the questions you ask should be meaningful and establish your investment in the speaker's message. Ask questions that can help both you and the speaker reflect on what they said as well as elaborate on any points that may need extra clarification. The questions might help the speaker remember other things they wanted to say or open up a new line of dialogue that will be worth exploring.

5. Recall previous information

Recalling information that the speaker has already discussed, as well as summarizing the points they made in your responses, can help you become a more effective listener. Doing this not only shows the speaker you understand what they said, but it also ensures they can clarify any misunderstandings and confirm their key points.

6. Provide your input

Being a good listener encompasses both processing a speaker's message and providing valuable input from your point of view. It is best to do this once the speaker has contributed everything they needed to say and you have properly interpreted all the information they have presented.

Tips for listening more effectively

Here are a few extra tips to help you listen more effectively:

Manage your time appropriately

When preparing to listen effectively, it is important to ensure you've scheduled a time when you can provide the speaker with your undivided attention. It is best to avoid creating too many meetings or cluttering your schedule so that each time you are listening to a speaker, you can do so while focusing clearly on what they are saying.

Be mindful of your perspective

It is natural to approach any subject with a different point of view than the speaker's. Regardless of the message, be mindful of different perspectives when you're interpreting the other person's message. Even if you disagree, recognizing the difference in your point of view and using it to understand the speaker's message can help you listen more effectively.

Take notes

It's useful to take notes when listening to a speaker. Jotting down key ideas, questions and any points that may need further clarification will allow you to understand their message more effectively.

Display empathy

Listening to someone with an emphasis on empathy can help prevent any misunderstandings from occurring. The more you work to connect with what others are thinking and feeling, the less likely you are to misunderstand them.

Avoid interruptions

The more interruptions you experience while a person is speaking, the less likely they are to fully communicate what they intended to say. Avoiding interruptions and creating an environment where they can speak without distraction or interruption will make it easier for them to share their message.

Stay curious and open-minded

While you should give the speaker a chance to share their message without interruption, effective listening includes maintaining your curiosity and staying open-minded. The more you can ask questions and think creatively about what the speaker is sharing, the more likely you will be to properly interpret their message.

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