How to be a Better Listener

According to Aytekin Tank, founder at, in a post on LinkedIn, only 10% of us listen effectively. Brenda Ueland states, “We should all know this: that listening, not talking, is the gifted and great role, and the imaginative role. And the true listener is much more believed, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good.”
In our schools, we teach reading, writing, and (a)rithmetic! When do we truly teach our students to be effective listeners? We tend to value speaking over the ability to listen, particularly in leadership positions.
In the late ‘90s, social psychologists coined the Dunning-Kruger effect, as the human tendency to overestimate our cognitive abilities and how well we listen. The article stated the difference between listening and outstanding listening.
“Top-level listening is known as 360 degree listening – when you’re listening to what someone is saying and how they’re saying it.
One step down is focused listening, in which we’re listening but not fully connecting. For example, we don’t notice nonverbal cues, like energy and body language.
Finally, there’s internal listening, when we’re focused on our own thoughts, worries and priorities, and simply pretend to hear our conversation partner.”
This article shared certain characteristics of ‘Outstanding Listeners’.
1. They are not silent. They ask questions that promote discovery & insight. Good listening is a two-way dialogue, not a one-sided monologue.
2. They boost their partner’s self-esteem. By conveying support and confidence, an outstanding listener makes the conversation a positive experience for both parties.
3. They are cooperative, not combative. Strong listening allows feedback to flow smoothly, so neither speaker feels defensive.
4. They offer constructive suggestions. Good feedback depends on the information and how you offer it. When a colleague can tell that you’re listening attentively, she’s more likely to take your feedback seriously.
Tips for becoming a better listener:
1. Look people in the eye.
2. Wait until someone is truly done speaking to respond.
3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues.
4. Ask better questions.
5. Create space for reflection.
6. Notice the listening/speaking ratio.
This article and suggestions remind me of Covey’s Habit 5 – Seek First to Unerstand, Then to be Understood. (Check out my Teachables) As Sean Covey teaches in his book, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, you’ve got to listen with your heart and eyes, not just with your ears.

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