How to Listen Well to Build Trust
Why listening is critical for building long-lasting relationships at home and at work
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Today, I want to share a guide on how to be a great listener.
I’ve been a terrible listener for most of my life. Instead of listening, I would often think of my response, interrupt the speaker, or tune out entirely.
I’ve since learned that:
Poor listening skills can really hurt relationships at home and at work.
After all, we’re drawn to people who show genuine interest in our lives instead of those who prefer to talk about themselves all the time. Here are 5 steps that I’ve found helpful to follow to become a better listener:
Get in the right mindset
Listen to understand, not to respond
Mirror what you just heard
1. Get in the right mindset
You cannot listen well if you’re not in the right mindset:
Be genuinely curious. Start with a beginner’s mind, quiet your ego, and be genuinely curious about the speaker’s perspective.
Put away distractions. It’s all too common to “listen” while also scrolling through your phone. Instead, make eye contact and give your full attention to the speaker.
Detach from emotions. You won’t be able to listen if you feel negative emotions like fear and anger.
Of course, the above is easier said then done. I’ve found the following tactics useful to get into the right mindset:
Practice detachment: When you feel the urge to respond, learn to take a deep breath and pause instead.
Change your environment. Try changing your environment (e.g., “want to take a walk outside?”) to improve your mood.
Delay the conversation. If you’re just too exhausted or pre-occupied to listen, let the other party know and suggest another time.
2. Listen to understand, not to respond
Active listening is “active” because it takes real work. Focus your attention on not just the speaker’s words but also their emotions and body language.
Apply the 7-38-55 rule from psychologist Albert Mehrabian:
7% words. What are they saying?
38% tone. What’s their tone and volume?
55% body language. What are their facial expressions and gestures?
If you the speaker’s words, tone, and body language feel inconsistent, use step 3 to uncover their real thoughts.