The Secret to Becoming an Expert Listener

We live in a world where everybody has a microphone. On a daily basis, we find ourselves under a deluge of information and perspectives; voices screaming over one another to be heard in a culture of constant noise.


We live in a world where we’re used to vying for attention, and the habit of competing for the last word or the winning opinion seeps in and erodes at our relationships until we no longer feel safe or valued. Perhaps it’s time we re-learned what it means to be a good listener.

The Importance of Listening

In a society where everyone is competing to be heard, the art of listening without the agenda to respond is a foreign concept, but one that deserves to be studied for several reasons.

Listening validates the worth of others. Even in an instance when you may disagree, being willing to hear someone out shows that they matter to you. We can all attest to the feeling of validation that comes with being listened to.

Listening demonstrates honor. In our generation, honor has become a lost art. We’ve become so self-focused that we’ve forgotten how to show respect to those around us, and the simple act of listening goes a long way toward honoring others.

Listening helps us gain understanding. Too often, we listen solely for the purpose of constructing a response. This type of “listening” does nothing to validate or honor our relationships. Instead, we need to be focused on listening to learn.

The Secret to Being an Expert Listener

We’ve lost the ability to listen so much so that we often define it as simply being quiet while another person talks. But listening—truly—involves much more than that. It’s the act of giving one’s attention to something; attention defined as: “regarding someone or something with interest or importance” and “taking special care of [them].”

Being a good listener is not passive. So what’s the secret?

It’s simple, really. We must learn to engage in the conversation—not by dishing out our opinions, but by asking good questions: seeking to understand. We need to learn to ask questions that are:

  • Non-accusational
  • Constructive
  • Attentive
  • Helpful

Remember your goal. When you learn to ask good questions, you open up a safe place for others to share their feelings and opinions with you, and by doing so, you build trust in your relationship.

Your Challenge

I want you to challenge yourself today: when you find yourself in a position to listen, don’t focus on how you’re going to respond. Instead, challenge yourself to ask questions like, “How do you feel about that?” or “Help me understand what you mean?” Focus on understanding the situation rather than influencing it, and it will transform the conversation.

Let’s chat!

  • Do you tend to be a good listener?
  • What types of questions do you ask when listening to others?
  • How has being listened to impacted you?
  • What was the best question someone ever asked you?

Hey! If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share it with a friend, or reply on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear about your experiences with listening!

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10 thoughts on “The Secret to Becoming an Expert Listener

  1. When I was 17, I realized I needed to work on becoming a better listener. It’s still an uphill journey, but listening to other people is so important. I appreciate articles like this that acknowledge listening as an active (rather than passive) skill that can be learned and improved.

    • Thanks for commenting, Leah! Learning to listen can definitely be hard at times, but it’s so rewarding in the end, as your relationships and discussions become that much richer.

  2. If we listened in order to respond with a question that meets your four guidelines(Non-accusational, Constructive, Attentive, and Helpful) this world would be much better off…
    “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. “

  3. One of the biggest things I’ve learned when listening to people, especially in emotionally high situations, should begin with affirming. “It sounds like such and such is really frustrating, what steps have you taken?” or “would it be helpful if…”

    And there’s a lot to be said for simply hearing someone out. To gently ask for more details and truly focusing on them. This will help create a space for other person to feel safe and invested in while also giving them room continue the conversation.

    • That’s an excellent point, Kate. Affirmation is super important when dealing with an emotionally intense situation. It’s always important to make sure the other person feels safe and valued rather than attacked by your questions.

    • Same here, Victoria. Listening has always come easily for me as well, as I prefer to hear about others rather than talking about myself. People’s stories are fascinating, once you take time to hear them.

  4. In my childhood, i felt that i am good listener but as I am more prone to surrounding conditions and some burdens, i realized that i am missing listening and i am very much confined to my own thoughts which is not even virtual. I am practicing daily of listening, sometimes lecture,movies,conversations on news channels,etc which helped me a lot in becoming a good listener again. Thanks for this blog. I am very much appreciated with the importance of listening.

    • Hey, Ritesh! Thanks for commenting. I really like your point about becoming prone to distractions and such as something that can keep us from being good listeners. When we’re distracted with other things, whether that’s conditions in society or our own thoughts and burdens, it definitely causes us to be distant from others. And while I think self-reflection is important for our health, it’s not something that should get in the way of our relationships and keep us from listening genuinely to the people around us.