Active Listening Takes Practice!


We have all been there. Your friend is telling a story and you completely relate to the topic. You wait for that pause when you can interject your own experience or advice. You know just what to say and you think you are a good listener but are you practicing active listening? You may find your mind starting to drift. What is for dinner? How should I respond? How can I help my friend?

As I researched the best ways to become an active listener, I realized something interesting.

I need to work on it. But unfortunately, I am not as great a listener as I thought. That is okay, though, because practice makes perfect and we are all human, right?

Active listening involves listening with not just your ears, but all your senses. You are engaged with your speaker and make them feel heard and validated. The goal is not for you to give your opinion and advice. Instead, your goal should be to establish trust and empathy between you and the speaker.

Here are some ways we can all practice becoming better active listeners.

Direct Eye Contact and Facing the Speaker:

We all have limited time, which makes it hard sometimes not to multitask. I find that if I prepare myself for the conversation, I can make sure I am not distracted by other things.  For example, if I know my friend needs to talk about their divorce or a job loss, I will make sure I put my phone out of eyesight and on vibrate. If there is an emergency, I can excuse myself to answer, but I won’t be staring at my phone the whole time. Or, if a friend calls about something important and it is not the best time, I will offer them a good time to reconnect when I can give them my full attention.

Ways to be a better listenerPay Attention:

This one was tricky for me because my initial thought was that of course I pay attention.  Paying attention means not planning your response when they are talking. Try not to redirect the conversation to yourself unless the speaker asks for advice. Nod as you listen to the speaker, showing them that you understand what they are saying. Uncross your arms and let them know you are open to this conversation.

It’s Okay to be Silent:

I will admit, that this one is hard for me. Silence in conversations makes me feel uncomfortable. If you were truly paying attention, then you were not thinking about your response, you may need a minute to process everything. It is okay and most likely appreciated to let the speaker know that you are taking a moment to collect your thoughts. Sometimes the speaker may find that the silence gives them time to continue their thoughts.

Ask Direct Questions

Focus on what the speaker is sharing by digging deeper. Encourage them to “tell me more about…” or “How would this work?” This will show your friend that you are engaged and interested. Try to avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no response.

Summarize What You Hear

Help your speaker know that you are actively listening by summarizing what they said.  This will ensure you and your speaker that you understand what they are saying and that you are here for them. Try starting with this simple phrase: Tell me if this is what you are saying….

Active listening takes time, but with a little bit of practice, we can show our friends and loved ones that we are engaged and interested in the message they are sharing.

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Melissa Burnett
Melissa Burnett was born in New Jersey but moved to Ohio at the beginning of a school year where she thought her parents forgot her at Kindergarten and spent most of her first day in tears. Since then, she learned to transfer her imagination onto paper and write stories. She taught Title 1 Reading and wrote children’s books before embarking on her journey into parenthood. Melissa is a mother to twin boys and a younger boy who keeps her on her toes. She enjoys Friday stay home movie night with her boys and dreaming up business ideas with her extremely patient and loving husband. When she is not breaking up wrestling matches, Melissa and her husband spend their time working on rental cabins in Hocking Hills. They also enjoy popcorn and coming up with new popcorn flavors. Melissa promises she does not have motherhood figured out, but she does have many funny stories to share and a word of advice “when you go through the car wash with kids…make sure your window lock is on.” Follow her blog: