Want to learn to listen, really listen?

Adopting a few new habits could transform your relationships.

Listen to understand, not to reply

One of my favourite quotes.

It is a distillation of Stephen Covey’s quote “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.

Time to talk

We are encouraged to speak up about how we are feeling.  To share with someone else can help to lift the load.

For that to be truly effective, of course, someone must listen and really hear us.

When someone confides in you, how often do you find yourself going into reply-mode?  “I know how you feel”, “something similar, in fact much worse, happened to me / my relative / friend / neighbour”, “what you need to do is…”, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” …

How would it feel to NOT do that?  Difficult?  What would you say instead?

Time to listen

If you’d like to be a better listener, here’s a few things to try:

  • Focus on the other person’s words; imagine you need to repeat back to them, word for word, what they say to you
  • Enjoy silence; if they go quiet, count a good, slow 10 seconds before giving in to any temptation to speak
  • Choose your words; when you feel you really must say something, go for something like “go on, I’m listening” or “pffff, ouch”, even “how can I help?”

That old thing called…empathy

We want to find a way to make someone feel better and, somehow, we find ourselves conditioned to try to provide advice for the other person or tell them why things aren’t so bad.

The answer is… empathy (I have a T-shirt with that on it – I’ll share it with you one day).

Brené Brown’s video on empathy explains it beautifully so I’m not going to attempt to recreate it:


Try to understand

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand.  We can never really know how someone is feeling, we can just get an idea.

If someone told me they were really p’d off because they had to go on a 5-mile hike with colleagues, I’d struggle to relate directly – I love walking.  But if I imagine having to go 10-pin bowling, something I really don’t like doing, then I start to get an idea of how they might be feeling. 

It gets harder when you feel you have insight the other person hasn’t.

e.g. If a friend is upset because their partner, who you think is bad for them, has ended their relationship; by pointing out the partner’s faults your friend may, inadvertently on your part, feel criticised for their choices; instead try imagining the person you love the most leaving you, you may then begin to make some sense of how they feel.

Learn to listen and see your relationships improve.

Want someone you don’t already know to listen?

Sometimes if can help to talk to someone you don’t already know about what you are thinking and how you are feeling.

If you feel like it might help to have that kind of conversation to a listening professional, you can book a free 10-minute telephone consultation on the booking page.

It would be great to hear from you, and I’ll do my best to make it a positive experience for you.


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