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Listening Skills - Have We Lost the Art? - 4 Ways to Really Listen

By Edited Feb 29, 2016 4 5

I ran into a friend the other day, and we were excited to see each other, it had been a long time.  We hugged and then she asked me a question, and as I answered the question I could see her eyes dart to her cell phone.

She said “just a minute I really must answer this text” and quickly picked away at her phone, then looked up and asked “what did you say again?”, then I began again and her phone beeped, and she pretended to ignore it but I could tell she wasn’t really listening.  Trying to juggle all these various ways of communicating has some people going high speed, and they think they are listening to you, but really just partly, and will likely miss the important bits.

She then put the phone away in her pocket, then asked me what I was up to, and then before I could speak she started telling me what she was up to, and then just by her eyes I knew she was already thinking about what she wanted to say next and not really listening at all and most likely thinking about many other things. 

listening skills

I know I am guilty of all of this too, and then realized how many people we will bump into in our lives, or actually converse with daily either at work or home, and just how many times any of the sentences were ever finished, or how many subjects we partly covered because of abrupt interruptions which triggers subject change. Our minds, bodies and souls are on “overdrive”

Texting has become a way to solidify the words so that we can look back later to see what tasks we were meant to do because we were not really listening at the time they were said.  How many times have you heard someone tell you “send me the info in a text”.  It used to be emails, but texting is even a shorter version and quicker.    We seem to be permanently connected to electronics.  Sometimes people want to block everything out and will wear headphones filled with their music, rather than converse with anyone on the bus, train or even the sidewalk it is no wonder our listening skills have become rusty.

listening skills

1. Slow Down and Write it Down

If someone wants to talk to you, whether it is your kids, a friend a relative, or coworker, try to slow down your thoughts.  We all have a million chores to do in our day and it sends our brains twirling fast and takes up energy.  Make a handwritten list of the things you must do each day at the start of your day, this way they don’t roll around in your head.  This tip has really helped me to empty my brain of these chores and stop draining my energy and listening skills trying to remember them and slow it down. 

Have you ever been listening to someone and suddenly you are thinking about a bill you have to pay or getting something out for dinner, then you apologize and ask them to repeat?  Get the mundane chores down on paper.  This helps to slow things down so you can concentrate on what you are hearing or what you need to say. 

You see it all the time even in parks, people walking at high speed thru the park on a beautiful day and they look like they are totally somewhere else.

How to listen

2. Make Eye Contact

This may sound simple, but next time you are talking to someone especially in a public place such as a coffee shop, restaurant or sidewalk, see just how many times they really look at you.  Many times their eyes are wandering and you can almost see the wheels in the brain turning and they are not really giving you their full attention.

I admit, sometimes conversations are so boring, you can’t help it, but if a good friend or relative wants to talk to you with a serious subject or just to ask an opinion or basically anything, look right at them and let all the surroundings disappear and really listen to what they have to say. 

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3. Put Your Cell Phone Away

If you are expecting an important call, then tell your guest right up front so that it is an expected interruption, otherwise, put it in your pocket or purse while conversing with your friend. 

I was in the coffee shop the other day and while waiting for my coffee to be made, I saw a group of ladies giggling and chatting away, but one of them had turned her head down towards her side to do some texting from her pocket of the coat hanging on the chair, and then looked up to her friends and said “what was that I missed that cause it is so noisy in here”. 

How to Listen
  I was trying to figure out what was so important to do a sneaky text while talking with your friends, then have the nerve to get them to repeat. 

Put the phone away, especially if this is a planned gathering or activity.  The beauty of these cell phones is that the text will be waiting for you when you are done paying attention to your conversations. 

Our attention span seems to be getting shorter and shorter.  We fill our heads with too much unimportant stuff and we are exhausted by day’s end, and realize we can’t remember totally what that friend said today at coffee break or someone’s name.  

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4. Relax and Listen to Nature

Find time in your day to slow it down.  Mindfulness has become a very popular way to slow your mind, body and soul down to a comfortable level.   I was told the easiest way to get some of this into your day, is through nature.  Take a walk even in town there are parks.  Or look at a bird on the sill or that bug on the wall, and ask 3 questions about it.  Your brain will now come away from whatever you were dealing with and try and come up with answers. 

You could look at a bird and wonder “how many colours are your feathers?”, how does it feel to soar and fly?”, “what songs do you sing?” by doing this you concentrate on it intently even for 5 or 10 minutes and your mind and body slows down and you really being to appreciate what you are looking at and the sounds of nature.

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Once you learn to really look at things and appreciate things such as nature, you also really listen.  Forest Bathing has been found to have great health benefits.  Simply walk through a forest or park if that is the closest to you, and really feel and watch nature.

Slowing your body down, will not only help you to really listen to nature, but also the people in your lives.



Jan 15, 2016 3:59am
I don't think that we lost the skills, we just have lost our sense of what is real. Good article. Thanks for writing this.
Jan 15, 2016 7:07am
totally agree. I was on a bus the other day and heard no conversations at all as most had ear buds in or were clicking away on their phone.
Jan 15, 2016 4:51am
So very true, people pay too much attention to their own needs and forget that others need someone to listen to their problems to. This reminds me of a trip I took on the train to Perth about 6 months ago. Years ago if you got on a bus or train everyone would look at you. Now when you get on any type of transport no one even looks up from those electronic aids.
I often think we are going backwards.
Great article.
Jan 15, 2016 7:08am
Yes, it is getting worse too. I said hello to someone on the sidewalk as they walked by with their dog and realized they were in never never land with their ear buds..
Jan 24, 2016 8:47am
Great idea for an article: Simply listening...but really listening is the best way to create and maintain a loving relationship. Husbands and wives who "forget to listen (really listen) to one another typically end up living unhappily ever after or separating. Two big thumbs and a rating from me
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