Improve Relationships by Truly Listening

Listening and truly understanding another person is tricky business.  Sometimes it feels as though miscommunication happens more frequently than we would like.  Communication breakdowns often begin with poor listening.  There are several poor listening habits we all can all struggle with.  For example, there may be times we space out when someone else is talking.  The other person may even catch us not attending to them.  Other times we may pretend listen.  We nod or “umhum” as they talk, but our mind is elsewhere.  We may spend time we are supposed to be listening focusing instead on judging thoughts about what the other person said.  Perhaps we are focusing more on what we will say next.  When we engage in any of these behaviors, we do not hear the message the other person is attempting to communicate.

The person talking to us often notices that we are not truly engaged.  It leaves them feeling less valued, important, and understood.  In addition, when we engage in the behaviors described above there is a good chance we will not clearly understand what the other person is trying to communicate.  So, what are some of the things we can do to improve our listening?

Strategies to Improve Understanding

  1.  Listen with your heart.  Did you know that only 7% of communication is in the words we speak?  53% of communication is through our body language and 40% is in the tone and feeling of our language.  In order to better understand what someone would like to communicate we need to pay attention to more than words.  When listening to someone it is important to put your attention fully on them.
  2. Notice them and try to put yourself if their shoes.  Focus on fully understanding their perspective as completely as you can.  Think about who they are, what they are saying, what they are not saying.
  3. The third strategy to listen well is to paraphrase back to the other person what you heard.  Believe it or not often times people just want to know someone is listening and gets them.  Most of us don’t want someone to “fix it” for us.  When you take time to fully focus on another person, listen to them, and paraphrase what you heard back to them they feel cared about.

Next Steps

This next week you can pay attention to how you listen to others.  See if you can catch yourself making some of the listening mistakes we reviewed.  Better yet, see if you can practice the 3 Strategies to Improve Understanding we discussed.  Do you see a difference in the response of the person talking when you use one strategy versus another?

*This content was inspired by Sean Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.  This is a great book for your teen or preteen to read!  My son loved it!  He even brought it to school to read and the other kids wanted to read it when he finished:)  He talks about how helpful the strategies are for him.  Good stuff!


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