How to Develop Listening Skills

Listening is imperative for proper communication.  An important part of communicating is listening.  Listening involves more than what you hear with your ears.  It involves what you hear with your mind.  You may hear the words, but unless you really listen to what is being said, you won’t be able to respond to anyone.

Difference between Hearing and Listening


Hearing is a physical act.  Hearing acknowledges sounds. Listening is an intellectual and emotional act.  Listening requires that you understand what is said.

Listening is much more intricate and complicated than the process of hearing. Hearing is done with the ears while listening is an intellectual and emotional process that integrates physical, emotional, and intellectual inputs in a search for meaning and understanding.

Being a good listener is beneficial in many ways.  For example, it:

  • Improves communication
  • Puts you in control of the situation
  • Lessens arguments
  • If you have misunderstood, the talker can immediately correct your impressions.  You learn more about people.
  • Shows that you care
  • Shows respect to the speaker

Four types of listening:-

Inactive listening: You hear only the words, not the meaning.  “Goes in one ear and out of the other.”

Selective listening: You hear only what you want to hear. You filter—although usually unconsciously—the message.

Active listening: You make a conscious effort not only to hear the words but also to listen to the complete message the customer is sending.  Active listening takes into consideration the intent and nonverbal communication of the customer.  Active listening also uses empathy and is nonjudgmental.

Reflective listening: You listen for the whole message.  This is particularly important when dealing with a complicated issue or resolving a conflict.  Reflective listening is used to clarify what is being said and to convey mutual understanding.


Ways to improve Listening

Stop Talking

Don’t talk, listen.  When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them.

Focus on what is being said.

Avoid unnecessary interruptions.  These behaviors disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.

A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished.

Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

Try to be impartial.

Don’t become irritated and don’t let the person’s habits or mannerisms distract you from what the speaker is really saying. Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still. Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.

You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces.

Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. With proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.

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