Ways to improve your listening skills

Posted on July 6, 2021

Ways to improve your listening skills

Each year in July, Samaritans run their Talk To Us campaign to raise awareness of the support they provide to anyone who needs somebody to talk to. With this in mind, we started to think about how to become better listeners to support our own family and friends. Here are the tips we find helpful.

Be fully present

It’s harder to be a good listener if you are distracted, so during conversations with loved ones, put devices away, switch off the TV and give them your full attention. This will show the person talking that you care about them and what they have to say. Giving them the time and attention can really help. 

Consider your body language

Even when not speaking, we can show that we are listening with our body language. Nodding and making eye contact shows that you acknowledge and understand what is being said to you and will make your friend or relative feel more confident in talking to you.

Listen with empathy, not judgement

It can be all too easy to judge those we care about, but a good listener will listen with empathy, not judgement. If your friend or relative has chosen to speak to you about something personal to them, show respect and understanding for their experience and feelings.

Ask open questions

Open questions can help when someone is finding it difficult to talk about how they feel. They will encourage the speaker to keep talking without the pressure of leading the conversation.

Don’t interrupt

Bad listeners are often said to be those who are simply waiting for their turn to talk. Avoid interrupting when someone is talking to you – even with a positive response. This can be off-putting if someone is speaking about something personal and hasn’t had a chance to say everything they want to say.

Remember and follow up 

Good listeners remember what has been shared with them and, where appropriate, follow up later. If a friend or relative confides in you about their feelings, be sure to check in with them at regular intervals to see how they are getting on. 

Don’t always give advice

Often, we aren’t looking for advice when speaking to someone about our problems, but simply want someone to listen to us and acknowledge us. Know when giving advice is appropriate – or ask permission before giving your opinion: “Would you like my advice on this?”