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One simple skill to listen better - and 3 reasons why it works

We’re listening every second of a waking day, so it’s not often something we think of as a skill. However, the type of person who takes it for granted is often someone we would think of as a bad listener (and I’m sure they occupy places on lists of ex-partners/friends/bosses). So it’s essential to value listening as a skill and work on being a good listener.

But being a good listener is not easy. And rather frustratingly, it gets even more challenging when we are in high-pressure situations where listening effectively would come in handy. I remember what it was like starting a new job and being more worried about looking like I was listening intently than actually doing it. And I still know what it’s like in an important meeting, worrying about what is coming next, not listening to what is happening now. So long story short, listening effectively is complicated for everyone.

But I have one simple skill to use to make it a bit easier: repeating a paraphrased version of what they just told you.

Here are the three reasons it works so well:

1. It will force you to listen carefully. Humans are weird, and just because we know we should be listening doesn’t necessarily mean we will. However, suppose you know you have to summarise what you’d just heard once they have finished. You will have no choice but to make yourself pay attention.

2. Repeating aloud boosts memory, especially when you do it while speaking directly to another person. So not only will this trick force you to pay attention, by saying it out loud immediately, you are significantly more likely to remember it (which is key for effective listening).

3. People like to feel listened to. Paraphrasing back what you’ve just heard will show how well you have understood, which is a secondary benefit to this. The primary benefit is showing you are actively engaging in the conversation. Humans are weird, but we all love to feel listened to. So doing this is a simple way to make a meaningful impact on a relationship and ensure you occupy a place on their list of good listeners.

These are just three of the many benefits of this technique. If you give it a go and make an effort to build this skill into a habit now, I promise it will consistently pay dividends throughout the rest of your career (and it may even help you in your personal life too).


If you found this helpful, I regularly share random advice for operating more effectively at work on Twitter – come say hey!

Read this blog on Medium here.


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