Are you a bad listener?

Everyone loves a stat. So, let’s start with one.

We spend 60% of our communication time listening, but only retain around 25% of the messages.

Think about your day. Different conversations with different people in different settings about different topics.

How much of what was said can you recall?

Listening is fundamental to communication. Why are we so bad at it?

Because listening takes effort. It takes a conscious decision to concentrate, understand and respond to the verbal and non-verbal messages of the speaker.

A good listener concentrates on the words of the speaker, they also pay attention to the speaker’s tone of voice and their body language (non-verbal messages).

Wow, that’s a lot to take in. That’s why it’s so hard. 

Listening is an essential life skills, but no one teaches us how to do it.

So, listen up, because I’m going to give you some tips and tricks to become a good listener.

4 listening tips that are music to your ears

1. Just nod and smile (and use eye-contact)

Use your common sense here. If the speaker is talking seriously, smiling and nodding your head frantically may not be received well.

When used appropriately, these skills are great ways to show the speaker that you’re interested in, and you understand, what they’re saying.

2. Silence is golden

Resist the urge to jump into a conversation. Pauses within a conversation are powerful. They allow the speaker (and even the listener) to reflect on what’s being said.

3. Two powerful words

When something bothers us, it can be difficult to speak with clarity about the cause.

A good listener uses two powerful words to encourage the speaker to delve deeper.

“Go on.”

Enough said.

4. Are we on the same page?

B1 and B2 from Banana’s in Pyjamas might be on the same page (“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, B1?”), but you can try these methods to confirm you understand the speaker’s messages:

Ask questions

Often, people say HOW they feel, but not WHY they feel it.

Asking questions not only helps you better understand the speaker’s messages, but it may even help the speaker better understand themselves. Questioning also lets the speaker know you’re interested.

Reflect and paraphrase

Share your take on what the speaker has shared with you.

“From what you’re saying it seems/it sounds/it looks like…”

Paraphrasing not only keeps you on your toes within a conversation, but it allows the speaker to gauge whether their message is being interpreted as they intended.

Sometimes people speak without listening to the words they’re saying (but that’s a lesson for another day).


A super-important skill, particularly when the topic is difficult to discuss.

Before you start problem solving, take a moment to let the speaker know that their feelings are valid. It may encourage them to open up further.

“I’m sorry to hear that. It sounds difficult.”

Validation works in positive circumstances too; “What a great outcome. No wonder you’re so excited!”

As you can see, it’s hard to be a good listener.

Be present in your conversations. Look for verbal and non-verbal messages. Don’t let your thoughts wander. And practice.

You’ll soon realise that the people around you are a lot more interesting than you thought. ?

Zoe Lazaridis is a Resilience Builders facilitator and holds a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours).

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