Listen More, Talk Less

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 23-04-2014

Not just listening to what someone is saying but really hearing what they're saying something that can be learnt and will massively increase your communcation skills.

It never ceases to amaze me how much of their inner most thoughts and feelings that my clients are willing to tell me.  At least, a couple of times a week I must hear, “I really wasn’t intending to tell you that” or “I’ve never told another soul what I’ve just told you.” So what is it that I do that gets people to actually open up to me in a way that they don’t with others?



You could say it’s because they’re paying me, but payment will only get you so far.  Individuals only open up if they feel that you're actually listening to them, without judgement.  That’s exactly what I do, I listen.  I don’t just mean superficially hearing what they have to say, I REALLY listen with minimal interruptions (except to ask pointed questions where I want to probe a little deeper). Listening skills practised frequently and thoroughly mastered have huge positive impact on relationships both at home and at work.



So few of us properly listen to each other, we are usually patiently (or sometimes not) waiting for our turn or our chance to have our say. When the other person is talking, we aren’t really listening we are formulating what we are going to say next and looking for a good point to interrupt and get our point across. Have you ever been around someone who continually interrupts? Of course, you have, it’s annoying and really quite frustrating and you don’t usually want to be around that person for long. It can make you feel undervalued and that your opinion doesn't count.



What happens when you actively listen to someone is they feel valued and that their views matter.  As a result, they will open up to you in ways you probably will never have thought possible.


Here I've listed five techniques that will help increase your listening skills:


  1. Use positive body language

    Your body language speaks volumes about whether you are interested in what another person is saying or not. Show you are interested by looking at the person and making good eye contact. Subtly mirror their body language, lean in towards them, nod occasionally to show that you are interested and engaged.

    Closed body language (arms/legs crossed), hands in pockets and avoiding eye contact do not demonstrate good listening skills. They will close the other person down and stop them from opening up to you. You have to look interested!
  2. Stay engaged

    If someone wants to talk to you, stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention. That means turning off the TV (yes really!), turning your back on your PC, not answering your phone and not checking your phone for messages, etc. There’s nothing more annoying than when you’re trying to tell someone something important and they continue doing something else and they say something like, “Carry on ... I’m listening” but they aren’t.
  3. Resist the urge to interrupt

    It can be tempting to finish someone else’s sentence or to try and hurry them along in an attempt to show that you understand what they are saying, but it can come across as rude and denies that person the chance to say what they really mean. Let them finish what they are saying in their own words. A top tip to ensure that you aren’t interrupting is to pause a few seconds before you respond.
  4. Ask questions/test understanding

    Use open-ended questions, one I like to use is, “Tell me ...” people love to be heard, so asking a question in such a way that it makes the person feel valued will help them to open up. Asking appropriate questions will also test your understanding of what’s going on so that you don’t make up your own story about the situation.
  5. Neutralise your feelings

    We cannot help people when we are judging them. We don’t have to necessarily agree with what the person is saying, but if we can fully absorb what the person means, we can respond more thoughtfully. Most people don’t listen to comprehend; they listen to reply. Don’t focus on what you’re going to say next, focus on what the person is saying.

Your task for the next couple of days (should you choose to accept it) is to practise active listening. Take some extra time to listen to what people are saying, I think you’ll find it fascinating!

JO's FIRST BOOK: Thoughts Become Things

Visit the website for Jo Banks' first book, Thoughts Become Things now available in paperback and Kindle formats.