How To Be An Effective Listener

I admit, I am outspoken person, that means talking comes easy and listening is harder. If we want to be a better friend, a better spouse, a better leader, listening skill is equally important skill to master for all of us. All too often we are far more enthusiastic about talking than we are listening.  Yet it is so vital if we are to communicate effectively.  Most break downs in relationships are caused because people talk at each other without really making contact.  Unless someone hears what has been said including the subtext the words have little value.

One of the biggest problem I have during listening is when person is talking, I am already thinking of counter sentence or reply to what the person is saying without really focusing on 100% listening. I hear but I do not listen properly. One time, I promise Zenguy that I will completely listen to him, without interrupting and counter outwitting him. I came to realize I am was bad at listening part. Since then I have decided to search on how to be a better listener. While I am improving, I still have ways to go. Here are some key point that I have learned which may help you as well having a better relationship with your spouse, kids, co-workers and friends.

Why Listening is Best for Relation Building:

  1. When we are actively listened to we feel valued and are far more likely to engage in negotiation and compromise.
  2. Listening is about far more than words.  Watching facial expression and body language is often a far more accurate barometer than the words that are being used.
  3. Nice things being said where the smile doesn’t reach the eyes is an obvious example.
  4. To be an effective listener it is vital that you listen actively.

How to Be An Effective Listener: 8 ways to becoming a more effective listener:

While, there are many ways to be a best listener, here are top 10 key points that will make a you a better person, a better leader, a better spouse and a better parent or friend just simply by listening and giving importance to other person’s point of view. After all, we all want to be appreciated for what we are, what we say and do.

  1. The main thing when you listen is to make an eye contact during listening to the person so he or she knows you are focusing on what he or she has to say.
  2. Read the body language of the talker.  Are they relaxed, anxious, angry? Extremes are easy to recognize but often the message is much more subtle. Try to also focus on your body language to keep it neutral, specially if conversation is opposite of your view point. Mirror the talker’s body language- subtly, a gentle dance rather than a caricature.
  3. Show that you are listening, make a nod, make appropriate responses as required truly.
  4. If possible, Ask relevant questions, ask them to clarify if you are not clear about their meaning, when they finished talking the sentence. Wait until they take a break, try not to interrupt in middle of the sentence. Summarize: so what you are saying is……….so they know what you understood is correct or not.
  5. Use open ended questions, the who, what, where, when to make sense of it all. (if there is a confusion)
  6. Be careful of the tone of your voice when you respond or ask questions.  It is all to easy to come across as judgmental and hostile. That would defeat the purpose of a good listener, right?
  7. Use empathy. Acknowledge difficulties, but be careful not to fall into the trap of going into anecdotes from your experience.  “ I sense that you are finding this rather difficult” rather than “Oh I know, it happened to me but mine was bigger, more difficult etc” Try  not to relay your own experience and give them solution. Many times, people do not want solutions, they just want to be heard.
  8. Take a real interest, if you are simply going through the motions the lack of sincerity will be obvious to others.  Leave your problems, worries and ego behind when listening to other person. I sometimes find myself thinking of what to make for dinner or pay bills, that will not be obvious to person talking and not make things better. Leave other things behind for little while.


Keep practicing, if you do not succeed first time, try again and again. It will become easier. Practice with your best friend, spouse or your mom. When someone truly listens to you, without any judgement or interruptions, you will end up feeling so fulfilled and know how great it feels to be listened to and be understood. After that you want to make other people feel that way as well, it is contiguous.

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How To Re-connect With Community Around You

Have you ever watched “It is wonderful life”, 1946 movie with James Stewart and Donna Reed? Many of us watch it during Christmas holidays as a holiday tradition. Why am I talking about a holiday movie in February time?

What I love about the movie, is not only uplifting and inspiring story, but also a sense of community in the movie, where everyone knew each other by name and were friends. I would like to live where everyone knows us, and we know them and are friendly with each other too. Our older generation used to know people around them such as neighbors and other everyday folks they met during the course of the day.

Now a days, we have lost that connection with people, a sense of community is hardly there. Many of us live in Apartments, Condo or house for months or years, yet we do not know many of our neighbors! I mean really know them as a friends not just by face or car they drive only. We no longer know people we deal with often such our bankers, bakers, gas station workers, mail man as they keep changing jobs often and due to lack of time on our part. And not many knows “real” us either, as we seemed to busier than ever.

We go to work, office, business, school, college or work at home, busy making money and paying bills, running errands, yet hardly we take time out to connect with people whom we meet. Take an example of working couple who work crazy hours till late evening, and they live early from home to work and come late from work too tired to mingle with anyone.I remember when I was working full time, we used to eat out or crash in front of the TV eating take out food, we did not have energy for people who lived around us. Now, that I am home and we have kids, we are just beginning to know some of our neighbors truly. However, there are still some neighbors who are busy working long hours or as soon as they come home, they close garage doors, so no one gets to know them.

Little kids are generally in tune with people and kindness, as they tend to help and smile at almost everyone, unless someone makes them scared. I get so inspired by little kids and some positive people around me as they show us, we do not need to spend money, look beautiful or have power to be happy. Just simply by being there and listening to people will connect us with people as it used to.

While, we do not be friends with neighbors like in movie “It is a wonderful life”, but we can improve on relating and connecting with people around us. We have have made friendship with single old woman in her late 60s and have shared some meals with her, we were there when her mom passed away and she in turns shares her stories with us, and helps us when we least expecting it.

There is always a first step to every journey and these are our conscious choices to smile and say hello to everyone we meet such as neighbors, grocery cashiers, Bankers, farmer market sellers, garbage truck driver, mail man and even those who solicited selling things at our door. It does not cost us anything to smile and be friendly and in return we get good energy that uplifts us.

Do you know people around you? Are you always rushing from one place to another? If so, slow down a little and get to know your community around you, slowly. It may do wonders for you.

If you are friendly with people around you, I would sure like hear your story.