Human beings are terrible listeners. How many of you find you tune out when listening to others, or start composing what you are going to say next, or a counter-argument to what is being said while it’s being said? According to research, we only remember 25 to 50% of what we hear! Jedi are supposed to be diplomats, communicating well and observing all that is around them, so we must do better. An excellent way to improve your listening skills is called Active Listening.
Firstly, what is your communication style? If you are more aware of how you communicate, what about that is good, and where people might misunderstand you, you are well on your way to paying better attention to other people’s communication styles, and watching out for their pitfalls. Here’s a short free test to determine if you are a Functional, Analytical, Personal, or Intuitive Communicator. Feel free to read the descriptions of all four here.
Next, have a conversation with someone, and keep in mind the following steps of good, interactive listening.
1. Pay attention.
- Put aside distracting thoughts: this is like meditation, so keep your thoughts focused on this one conversation.
- Look at the speaker directly; we are visual creatures, and our eyes often direct our concentration.
- Do not mentally prepare a response or rebuttal while the other person is talking! I know how tempting it is, especially if you’re having a very intense or excellent debate, but trust me, just clear your mind of everything but what they are saying.
- Pay attention to body language! If you are an empath, paying attention to the emotional content of the message is also very useful information.
2. Show that you are listening.
- Nod, smile, open inviting posture, eye-contact.
- Encourage them to speak by confirming you’ve heard them verbally (‘yes’, ‘I understand’ ‘uh huh’)
3. Provide Feedback.
- Repeat for clarification to show you heard and/or summarize lightly to engage.
- Ask clarifying or expanding questions to get more information.
- If something comes off as confusing or problematic, walk through it with them to make sure your own ideas and bias are not influencing your understanding of the message.
4. Defer Judgement.
- Don’t interrupt, allow them to fully finish.
- Be respectful of their viewpoint, especially when disagreeing. Respect doesn’t mean lying or holding back, but it does mean treating them like an equal partner in the conversation with something to contribute, even when you think they are incorrect.
- When and if you respond, don’t treat the discussion like a fight, treat it like a mutual endeavor where you both are looking to discover the truth.
Finally, practice! Try to listen fully and focus intently whenever you have a conversation, whether it’s a casual exchange with the checkout person at the grocery store, or an in-depth debate with a friend.
Let me know how it goes for you!
This post was based off of this Mindtools article on Active Listening. Visit to learn more.