How to (Really) Listen

Now, more than ever, people need support from their friends and loved ones. At a time where it is difficult to see people in person, it is important for us to really support one another. One very important skill I’ve learned to help support the people around me is active listening.

  1. 1. What is Active Listening

    Women in an interview

    Active listening is a technique of making people feel heard. It’s a useful technique used in a lot of support positions. Personally, I’ve been introduced to active listening both during a psychological first aid course and training for a crisis support line. It is a great skill to learn both for personal and professional life, and is simple enough to start using in your daily life.

  2. 2. Why use it?

    Hero image appropriate for article on Unhealthy Relatioships - image of a question mark

    The most important thing about active listening is to listen. Now I know that it seems like a given, but it’s surprising how often people listen not necessarily to the content of the conversation, but to the pauses so that they can interject and give their own opinion. Have you ever been venting to a friend, just for them to keep interrupting you, when all you want to do is to just let your thoughts out? There’s very little that I find more frustrating when I’m already upset about something else. So just listen. Be in the moment, and focus on who you are speaking to.

  3. 3. Tips on How to Actively Listen

    woman on a conference call with 3 others

    Make sure you are really paying attention to what the person is communicating. You can have a conversation with someone when still listening, but try to use similar words or phrases. Just repeating key words can connect you with the conversation. Nodding, or giving strategic sounds of encouragement (think “mmmhm”) are good ways of letting people know you are paying attention while remaining engaged. Also, feel free to ask clarifying questions. A lot of the time, reiterate what they are saying if you need to be sure. Something as simple as “it sounds like you’re feeling [insert emotion here] because of [insert phrase they recently said here], is that right?” lets people know that, not only are you listening, but you are trying to understand what they are feeling. However, the best way to get better at active listening is to practice. It doesn’t have to be hard or take much effort.

Overall, see if you are able to incorporate active listening into your life. You would be surprised by how easy it is, and how much more supportive of a person you can be to others. And right now, I think we can all use a little more support.