Good Conversation Skills: Tips On Becoming A Better Listener

Here are some rules great listeners abide by in conversation.

Have you ever been having a conversation with somebody and, as you talk, you can sense the moment they have stopped listening to you because their eyes seem to glaze over? Or maybe they have been a little more obvious about not listening as they start to look down at their watch, or over your shoulder or around the room. It's hard to carry a conversation with somebody who rarely listens and most times we will do all we can to avoid talking to this type of person. What are some attributes of a good listener and what can you start doing to become a better listener yourself?

Maintaining eye contact is probably the most important element of a good listener. Once the eyes start to wander, two things happen. First, the person who is talking to you notices that you have started looking around and will, more than likely, feel that what they are saying is unimportant to you. While this is not the impression you want to give to friends or family members who are chatting with you, this can prove fatal in any type of business or corporate setting. For example, you will not want to start looking around the room as your boss is discussing a major project with you as he may recognize your distraction as nonchalance with the project and/or company and begin to respect you less as an employee. The second thing that happens when you lose eye contact is you will definitely begin to distract yourself and not hear what the speaker is saying. For example, if you are listening to your manager discuss the new enhancements she wants on your project and you start looking around, you will start noticing things like her cup of coffee and think to yourself, "That reminds me. I need to pick up sugar on the way home from work today. And pick up my dry cleaning. Or did I already do that this morning? Wait, did I turn off the iron this morning?" By the time you have completed your internal monologue you will have missed most of what your boss has said and will need to ask her to repeat what she has just said. Not a good idea.

Repeating or reiterating what the speaker has just said will show them that you are paying attention. For example, if your best friend is telling you about the horrible day she just had, repeat the last thing she said before commenting or asking the next question. "So after you called the mechanic and found out it was going to cost a thousand dollars to fix your transmission, what did you tell your husband?" Also, when listening to somebody speak, nod your head when they have made a good point. This is not something you want to overdo, however, since you don't want to look like you are nodding for the sake of nodding. If somebody is giving a long speech or telling a long story, short phrases or small questions are permitted. For instance, if your mom is telling you a story about how she played the best tennis game of her life, you can say words of encouragement like, "Wow" or "Good for you, Mom!" You can also use small questions to prod the speaker, such as, "Then what happened?" or "Why did she do that?"


As with most things in life, you can apply the golden rule to listening. Listen to others as you would want to be listened to.

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