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Good listening habits


Techniques Listening > Good listening habits

Give full attention | Help them speak | Support the person | Manage your reactions | See also


There are many bad listening habits that are very common. You can also use the habit pattern to cultivate listening behaviors that will help the other person (and yourself at the same time).

Give full attention

The first habit of listening is to pay attention to the person who is speaking. Give them your full attention -- and visibly so. Attend not only with your ears but with your whole body. Turn to face them. Gaze intently at them.

The trick to full attention is to do it from inside your head, not just by moving your body. If you can be truly interested (which is often just a matter of attitude) then your body will happily follow your mind.

Help them speak

Sometimes the speaker is having difficulty getting their point across. Maybe they are not that good at speaking or are seeking to explain a complex concept. You can help them and yourself by positive encouragement.

If they lack confidence, encourage them with nods, smiles and positive noises. Show that you are interested in them and don't mind that they are not particularly erudite. If they are struggling with a concept, try to paraphrase what they are saying.

Asking positive questions is a generally good approach, both to test your own understanding and also to demonstrate interest.

Support the person

Good listening also includes acting in a way that is considerate of the other person. As a part of listening, you should seek to help the person feel good about themselves. Having someone pay close attention to you and show interest is very flattering and usually feels good.

A fundamental attitude to support this is to value and accept all people, even if you do not agree with what they have to say or how they say it. Thus, if you disagree, disagree with the argument and not with the person. Show your acceptance of their right to differ with you, whilst stating your opposition to what they say.

Manage your reactions

Finally, be careful with how you react to what the other person says.

It is easy to be put off by listeners who show a marked lack of interest, who do not seem to understand what you are saying or who seem more concerned with criticizing you and showing how they do not need to listen to you.

Before you comment about what the other person has said, pause before you dive into a response. Notice your own internal inferences and biases. Think about what you would say and the effect that it would have. Consider if this is what you want to achieve.

See also

Bad listening habits

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