Keys to Great Listening

What makes someone a great listener? As you answer this question, you can most likely picture someone who allows you to feel heard. You can share anything with them without the fear of misinterpretation or constant interruption.



The skill of listening has not come easy for me. I have has to constantly cover my mouth and not speak before someone has finished their thought. But listening involves far more than remaining silent. In my journey to become a better listener, here are a few keys that have helped me:

1. Consider it an honor when people invite you to listen to them.

Our motive for listening lies in adding value to people. When you extend an opportunity to listen, you have given a person space to share. Every time you allow someone to feel heard, then you have started to build trust.

2. Put the distractions away and fully engage.

My mind tends to race all over the place. Many times our opportunities to listen come when we least expect. You might call that interruptions. The ability to remove your hands from the keyboard, putting down the phone, or simply looking up communicates a powerful message to people.

3. Better to have long pauses then frantic exchanges.

I find myself preparing my response even before a person has finished talking. So many times when people talk, it takes them time to re-gather their thoughts. Pockets of silence provide a pause to process.

4. The best listeners ask powerful questions rather than giving advice.

When I consider the people who have made the most difference in my life, they rarely gave advice. Their questions got directly to the heart of my issue. Experienced listeners desire for others to arrive at their own conclusions. We never want to rob a person of their opportunity to grow.

What are other attributes of a great listener?


  1. One should be an “active listener” using the skills you’ve mentioned but one way to show that you are truly listening is paraphrase back to the person what you have heard! This allows the person to know that you are truly listening and if what you’ve heard isn’t exactly what the person is trying to express then they can amend or rephrase what they are trying to express. This also keeps the listener from creating an opion or advice because many times the person just wants someone to listen and not form any conclusions offer any advice.

    • Peter Englert

      November 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      That’s a great insight. Are we really hearing what people are trying to communicate.

  2. Another listening skill is to ask open ended questions. Stay away from questions that can be answered with one word answers… Like yes and no. What are your feelings about that? How do think you’ll approach the situation? What other information might help you? Just a few examples. Such questions also help the other person derive more focus and/or think of other potential steps to help themselves. Open ended questions aren’t always easy to formulate so listening carefully and taking a brief pause to create such a question is important.

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