How to Be an Active Listener to Build Stronger Relationships

Almost everyone thinks they’re a good listener (96% of people, according to one study).

But research has shown that people only retain about half of they’re told.

As it turns out, it isn’t just frustrating, it’s downright unproductive.

When we halfway listen to what someone is saying, we devalue our relationship with them.

Here’s what research says about the power of feeling heard in a work setting:

  • Highly engaged employees are three times more likely to say they feel heard at their workplace (92%) than highly disengaged employees (just 30%).
  • 74% of employees report they are more effective at their job when they feel heard.
  • 88% of employees whose companies financially outperform others in their industry feel heard compared to 62% of employees at financially underperforming companies.

One study found that active listening positively impacts the way people perceive you. The researchers said, “the emotional appraisal of an experience is positively changed in response to perceiving active listening by another.”

Another study found that active listening made people feel more understood than when they were given unsolicited advice or simple cues like head nods, “I see,” “OK,” “That makes sense,” and so on.

We all want to be heard.

Whenever we feel that someone is actively engaging in listening to what we’re saying, we feel gravitational pull towards that person.

They become more likable and we enjoy being around them more.

The reason is, they make us feel like we belong, and it’s all because they are simply listening.

So how can you be a better active listener?

Here are a few ways to engage in active listening:

Go to a singular focus.

Multi-tasking kills active listening.

Studies have shown over and over again that trying to do two complex, focus-demanding tasks at the same time only diminishes your effectiveness in both tasks.

So fully commit your attention to listening.

Nonverbal involvement

    Verbal paraphrasing

    Whenever someone is speaking to you, a good practice to develop is trying to distill down what they’re saying to a key takeaway. 

    Sift through what they’re saying to find what it is they’re actually saying.

    When you restate what you took away from what they said, you gain clarity and they feel much more appreciated.

    Clarity is key to active listening because we check out when we feel incapable of processing all that’s being said. 

    To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, simply keep mentally coming back to the key takeaways.

    At the end of the conversation, bring it all back to the takeaways to make sure you know exactly what was said and the other person knows they were listened to.

    Encourage elaboration

    Commit to the simple act of asking more questions.

    When you ask questions, it gets you involved in the conversation in a productive way without you having to be n expert on the topic. 

    Not only do questions keep the conversation going, but genuine questions make people feel like they’re heard and cared about.

    Simply putting yourself in this mindset will have you genuinely listening more as you try to go deeper into the conversation.