facebook pixel How to Become a Better Listener
Site Search
< Blog Home < Healthy Living

How to Become a Better Listener

What message are your listening skills sending? Find out how to fine-tune them with these five steps.


We all know communication is key to functional relationships, but being a good communicator is easier said than done. One of the most important parts of communication is being a great listener. These five things can help any good listener become a great listener.


Become fluent in reading body language


Expert listening often requires your eyes just as much as your ears. Albert Mehrabian, an early researcher of body language in the 1950s, said most of what we say is through our body. According to Mehrabian, our communication is made up of 7% verbal (the words you use), 38% tone and inflection, and nonverbal makes up the other 55%.  

“The key to reading body language is being able to understand a person's emotional condition while listening to what they are saying and noting the circumstances under which they are saying it. This allows you to separate fact from fiction and reality from fantasy,” wrote Barbara Pease in her book “The Definitive Book of Body Language.”  

Nonverbal communication is so powerful, many of today’s politicians have body language coaches to train them how to portray empathy, honesty, and sincerity through nonverbal signs. Most of us, however, don’t have such coaches, so much of what one’s body language says is likely to be accurate.  

So, while you learn to interpret what others are saying with their body, you also need to control what your body language is communicating. Are your arms folded? Are you avoiding eye contact? Both can indicate nervousness. Simple things like leaning in, maintaining eye-contact, and relaxing your body can tell someone you are earnestly listening.  

Related: How to Communicate Better with Others  

Ask for clarification when needed

There’s no harm in asking questions. If you didn’t understand something or missed a detail, asking for clarification shows you are trying to keep it all straight. You can’t be a good listener if you don’t understand what’s being said.  

But don’t interrupt unless necessary

Clarifying questions show that you are actively listening, but even with good intentions, interruptions like adding your point of view without being asked tend to halt the natural flow speaking. The individual speaking can also feel less understood when a lot of interruptions occur. Let them get it all out there.  

Focus on the present

Most of the communication we see demonstrated in America comes from shows and movies. Unfortunately, good examples of fantastic listening are rare because it’s not exciting to watch. Quick quips, which make up most of media dialogue, require the listener to be considering what to say next while the other is still speaking.  

This is possibly the most challenging part of being a great listener. Great listeners don’t multitask—they just listen. This means not trying to form your response while someone is still speaking. Great listening can slow down a conversation, but in the long run it is a far more efficient way to communicate.  

Related: What Is Your Body Language Actually Telling People?  

Don’t fear silence 

Thoughtful listeners are also thoughtful responders. When someone wants your opinion, don’t be afraid of silence in the conversation to really think through what you say before you say it.  

Taking a few moments before you respond can show the person you are listening, and what they said really matters to you. In turn, it helps you correctly communicate your thoughts with them.

Everyone has been on the receiving end of speaking to a great listener and a not-so-great one. Next time you notice a great listener, pay attention to what they do that makes you want to talk to them. Along with the suggestions above, mimicking those actions will make you a pro-communicator in no time.  

While you’re here, read more of our articles about being present and engaged.   


SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

You May Also Like...

Healthcare and Insurance Basics

Why Kids Need the Measles Vaccine

For parents: Here’s what you should know about the measles vaccine.

Nutrition and Diet

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Rest assured knowing the ingredients of your salad dressing by making this pomegranate vinaigrette at home—it’s perfect to add to your favorite green leafy salad.

In the Community

How to Cope with Wildfire Smoke

Because fires are still burning in the western part of the country, it’s important to know what to do to protect you and your family.


Why Transparency is Essential to Help Lower Cost of Prescription Drugs

Explaining why prescription drugs cost so much is complicated. But here’s what we’re doing to advocate for more transparency in the pharmacy industry.

Related Articles

Related Articles

Healthy Living

How to Train Like a Professional Athlete—Part 1

How to Train Like a Professional Athlete—Part 1

Healthy Living

Why You Should Care About Air Quality

Poor air quality affects everyone—here’s what one mom thinks you should know.

Healthy Living

How to Train Like a Professional Athlete—Part 2

Professional athletes are elite in their sports. Here are more tips to train like one.

Healthy Living

5 Ways to Reduce Screen Time and Be More Engaged

Do you wish you could rewind precious moments you missed with your family because you were glued to the TV, phone, or computer?

Post Author

Amberlee Lovell Peterson
Amberlee is a content manager, freelance writer, and designer. She is currently working on launching her own podcast and loves baby foxes.