5 Natural Ways to Improve Listening Skills

No question, listening is a skill that comes more easily to some of us than it does to others. Nevertheless, listening is a skill that is increasingly more highly valued in a world so highly peppered with distractions. But it also has the added benefit of building better learners! So how do you help your student develop critical listening skills? As usual, it begins with a focus on the skill. Here are five natural ways to improve listening skills:

1. Repeat Back

Long ago someone recommended repeating back as a way to foster great communication between two parties. Repeating back is a very important step to improving not only listening skills but communication skills, as well.

If you cannot repeat back in your own words what you have heard, you very likely did not really hear it.

The process of repeating back is invaluable for several reasons:

  • If you know you will be required to repeat back what someone has said, you will likely be paying very close attention.
  • To repeat back, beyond having to have literally heard what was said, you also have to have understood what was said.
  • Repeating back reflects a reflective mind — someone is actually paying attention.
  • It provides an opportunity to clarify points of misunderstanding before they become a problem.

Of course, repeating back is not a new concept for many of us.

2. Don’t Interrupt

A common obstruction to listening is having something to say. It is not unusual for a listener to be primed with his own comments to what is being said. Unfortunately, if your mind is processing what you want to say next it isn’t really processing what is being said.

Sometimes it is helpful to have something handy to use for taking notes — just quickly jotting down something you don’t want to forget.

You may want to signal that you will not be paying attention for a second “hang on a second.” Then jot down a note to help you remember later, and refocus on listening now.

3. Focus

It is all too easy to become distracted when trying to listen to nearly anything in this digitally-driven era. What to focus on becomes a matter of priorities. And we reflect our priorities when we choose to stop listening to someone in order to check our latest text.

As a mother, it is all too easy to multitask — in the sense of attempting to listen to our children while folding the laundry or a dozen other tasks. How many times have we had someone trailing along behind us as we zoom all over the house completing tasks?

It is tough. But our focus can be viewed as one way of serving those around us.

4. Ask Questions

Um…without interrupting.

Did you really listen? Engage. And one method of engaging is to ask questions and make an effort to fully understand what is being said.

5. Slow Down

Try not to cut the speaker off after having determined you already know where he or she is going. So often, we really don’t!

Give the speaker the full benefit of your attention until he has completely finished his point. You will have a greater understanding if you get all of the information before moving on.

Additional Resources

30 Narration Ideas
More ways to repeat back — for practice.

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