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How to Become a Much Better Listener

Paul has studied Spanish, German, and French. He is conversant now in Chinese Mandarin, Taiwanese, and the Thai language.

How to Become a Much Better Listener


Listening, speaking, reading, and writing are the four skills needed in learning and using any language. Unfortunately, many schools that teach a language to both native and non-native speakers emphasize speaking, reading, and writing skills while neglecting listening skills.

Better listening skills are necessary for all people to lead lives of more effective communication, understanding, and learning. If everyone improved their listening skill, there would be fewer misunderstandings, divorces, and failures in the classroom.

In this article, I introduce six ways how to become a much better listener.

They include:

  1. Knowing something about the speaker
  2. Becoming familiar with the speaker's topics of discussion
  3. Paying attention to the speaker
  4. Asking for clarification when needed
  5. Limiting unnecessary talking or interrupting the speaker
  6. Taking notes
  7. Giving feedback

Each way will be explained in this article.

1. Knowing Something about the Speaker

Knowing as much as you can about the engaged speaker will make you a much better listener. In doing this, you research the speaker's family and educational background, occupation, opinions, likes, and dislikes.

By knowing something about the speaker, you can anticipate what he or she is going to say and suggest a motive for remarks and actions.

2. Becoming Familiar with the Speaker's Topics of Discussion

In addition to knowing something about a speaker, becoming familiar with his or her topics of discussion will make you a better listener.

For example, if you want to understand a computer expert talking about the keys to good computer maintenance, it is necessary to have a background in basic computer knowledge.

Likewise, if you know your wife is going to be talking about her favorite interest or hobby, try to find out as much as you can about it.

By having background knowledge, you can make inferences about the meaning the speaker is trying to get across.

3. Paying Attention to the Speaker

As a teacher, it always upset me when students didn't pay attention to what I was saying in class.

Also, at times, when I am talking with a friend, he will not pay attention to my remarks because he just like my students is distracted by something.

To be a good listener, you must give complete attention to the speaker. For example, when I am listening to a non-native English speaker who has a heavy accent, I have to listen very carefully to what he or she is saying to catch the meaning.

4. Asking for Clarification When Needed

A good listener ensures that he or she understands everything the speaker is saying. One important way to do this is by asking for clarification.

If the speaker is talking too quickly and cannot be understood, a good listener will politely ask for a repeat or request that the speaker talks slower.

In the event a listener doesn't understand a word, phrase, or concept, it would be wise to ask the speaker for clarification. This can be done by asking the speaker if he means to say so and so or by explaining what he or she means.

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5. Limiting Unnecessary Talking or Interrupting the Speaker

I dislike talking with someone who monopolizes the conversation and doesn't let me get a word in.

When a person is talking, it is very difficult to listen at the same time.

Also, if a person is talking to himself or herself by rehearsing what is going to be said, it is hard to listen and understand the speaker.

Finally, it is impolite and unproductive to interrupt the speaker. By doing this, you will most probably miss the point the speaker is trying to make.

6. Taking Notes

A good student will take notes during a teacher's lecture. This is done so the student listener can summarize the lecturing speaker's message and be able later to ask questions about anything not understood. A good listener should do likewise when engaged in conversation.

7. Giving Feedback

Finally, a good listener gives the speaker feedback. This can be done by nodding or shaking the head while the speaker is talking. It can also be done by saying "yes" or "I understand" if the speaker has a long discourse. By not giving feedback, the speaker may think that the listener is not paying attention.

Being a good Listener

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 29, 2020:

Thank you very much for your comments. Yes, recognizing the body language and voice tone of a speaker is very important when listening,

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 29, 2020:

I am very pleased you liked my topic. Thank you very much for your encouraging comment!

Yasemin Mentes from Turkey on October 29, 2020:

Thank you for choosing the topic of becoming a better listener. Especially in today's world, where people often don't listen each other. It is a good reminder of what to care during a discussion or any of communications. Additionally, i also try to realise the body language and the voice tone of the person during the verbal interaction. Regards.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 29, 2020:

Great topic! There are times I feel like no one is listening to anyone else. Certainly on social media, listening takes a back seat to ranting. I think we would do well to practice a few of these tools that you talk about.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 23, 2020:

Mary, this is also a problem I have especially when I am preparing to say something.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 23, 2020:

I try to practice listening, but I find it hard to hear what the person is trying to say. My thoughts interfere so much.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 22, 2020:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Pamela. I am pleased that you find my suggestions excellent.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 22, 2020:

Not being a good listener hurt me badly in the relationship with my ex-wife,

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on October 22, 2020:

Yes, Liz, you can connect with someone if you remember something they said and then inquire about it the next time you see them. Thanks for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 22, 2020:

I think your suggestions to become a better listener are excellent. I really believe in taking notes as that always helps me remember the details. Thanks for such a thorough list, Paul.

Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on October 22, 2020:

Great advice. We all need to be better listeners sometimes.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 22, 2020:

You make some interesting and useful points in this important article. I used to encourage our children to listen carefully to what others said. It never fails to connect with someone if you remember something they have said previously and enquire about it the next time you see them.

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