Developing Effective Listening Skills

Recognizing the Importance of Listening: The first step in becoming an effective listener is to acknowledge its significance in your life and relationships. The next step is to practice active listening. Here are a few guidelines to help you start:

  • Never interrupt when someone else is speaking. Let them finish their thought.
  • Eliminate distractions (put away devices, turn off the TV, be fully present).
  • Maintain eye contact while the other person is speaking.
  • Lean in and show interest in what they are saying.
  • Keep an open posture (face your partner directly, don’t cross your arms or legs).
  • Provide verbal and nonverbal feedback such as nodding, smiling, or saying, “I see.”

The Levels of Listening

Listening goes beyond merely staying silent while someone talks; it’s an active, collaborative process. The first level is attentive listening, where we genuinely take an interest in the other person’s perspective. We acknowledge that we have something to learn from the interaction. However, this level has its limitations as we might still make assumptions and hear what we want to hear.

The second, more impactful level is active listening, which involves two-way communication and feedback. Active listening includes paraphrasing, clarifying, and giving feedback.

  • Paraphrasing: Restate what you heard in your own words, starting with phrases like “What I hear you saying is…” or “So, if I understand correctly, you mean…”
  • Clarifying: Ask questions to deepen your understanding, such as “How did you feel when I interrupted?” or “What were your thoughts when I said I didn’t want to go on that trip?”
  • Giving Feedback: Calmly share your own thoughts and feelings, allowing your partner to verify and expand on their communication.

Dr.Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT