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How to Become a Better Listener: Improve Your Communication Skills Today

Listening. In the simplest terms, it means to pay attention to a sound or voice. Seems so simple a concept, doesn't it? For most of us, it’s biological, involuntary. So then why do so many people tell us we are bad listeners? What do they know that we don’t?

Well, actually, it’s not a big, dark secret to be unveiled. However, it's a crucial one. Understanding it can transform how we communicate and improve the quality of the relationships we build.

So, what is this simple secret? Well, that’s what this article is going to be all about. The simple art that can help you become a better listener & in turn, give you the key to developing enriching relationships.


Let’s start with the basics. We think we all know what listening is as it comes naturally to most of us, but this natural gift of life is better termed as hearing.

Listening is not equal to hearing

In a Psychology Today article, Kaja Perina explains that, “Many individuals often interchange the words “hearing” and “listening” and mistake them for the same meaning. Although they share some similarities, there are significant differences between the two, with one being more active, requiring effort, and the other being involuntary and natural. To master communication and learning and be successful in interpersonal relationships, it is essential to become successful at listening and hearing.”

The difference between hearing & listening is subtle but huge. When someone plays music or asks you to pass the salt, you hear them, but you're often not listening. But if you go a step further and carefully listen to the song’s lyrics & try to understand them, then you’re listening.

The Psychology Today article goes on to say, “Listening is a mental, active process that requires multiple senses. Listening is a voluntary act, meaning that an individual can choose whether or not to hear. If you choose to listen, then it is an active process. You can hear sounds and words without having to listen or focus on what you are hearing. Hearing without listening is an example of the common phrase “in one ear and out the other”.”

Now that we understand the basics, let’s talk about the two main types of listening.


Think about the last time your mom talked to you about her day. More likely than not, you zoned out. Or maybe you didn’t, maybe you were actually listening, but only partially listening, zoning in & out between what she was saying and your own varying thoughts. And that’s okay. It’s actually quite normal, not always the healthiest, but normal nonetheless. It’s called Passive Listening.

Example of passive listening

According to a Gift of Life Institute article by Patricia Mulvania, “Passive listening is one-way communication where the receiver doesn’t provide feedback or ask questions and may or may not understand the sender’s message.” In other words, it is when you voluntarily choose to hear only parts of what someone is saying to you.

But why? There are several reasons to consider. Here are some-

  • Multitasking or tiredness

  • Distractions like phone, laptop, etc.

  • You already have an opinion

  • You’re thinking of a response while the other person is talking

  • You’re unwilling to listen to what the other person has to say

While some of these reasons are normal & prone to human nature, some of them are truly voluntary. It is these ones that we need to be wary of, as they can go on to become serious barriers in our relationships & in turn, our life.

Kaja Perina in the Psychology Today article says, “In other words, we are telling this individual that what they are saying and feeling is not essential at the moment, and as a result, we are minimizing them. By not listening to someone or passively listening, we are causing strain on that relationship, which can eventually affect our mental health.”

So then, how do we fix this? How do we save our relationships, to put it somewhat dramatically?



The key to enriching conversations is active listening. Patricia Mulvania in the Gift of Life article explains, “Active listening includes responses that demonstrate that you understand what the other person is trying to tell you about his or her experience.”

While passive listening means that you’re involved only partially, active listening means that you’re completely invested & involved in the conversation, voluntarily. Not only are you invested fully but you’re also singularly trying to understand what they’re saying without any physical or mental distractions. Taking the previous example, this means you are truly listening to your mom sharing her day with you and understanding what she liked or didn’t like about her day.

“Active listening is a conscious effort that demands empathy, effort, attention, and lots of practice." Patricia Mulvania (Gift of Life Institute)

This type of listening goes one step further where you can also ask questions about what you have just heard. Say your mom mentions a brief argument with the grocery store owner. If you are actively listening, you would be able to pick this up and ask her to tell you more about what happened.

Like Patricia Mulvania says, “This creates an environment that allows the speaker to go deeper, and sometimes even to come to new realizations. It’s the basis for trust and respect.” This not only betters your listening skills but more importantly makes the other person feel heard. This is the big secret we were talking about in the beginning; making people feel heard & this is how.

As you might've guessed already, active listening has a lot of benefits to offer. Here are some-

  • Genuine Relationship Building whether personal, professional, educational, etc.

  • Problem Solving & Resolutions

  • Higher Empathy

  • Understanding different perspectives with an open mind

  • Passing on our ideas and culture to future generations

Now that we know the key, why are we still here? Because while we know the secret now, we still don’t know how to use it.



Do you think you’re a good listener? Patricia Mulvania says in the Gift of Life article, “When asked, most professionals will say that they are good active listeners. It’s surprising to realize how rarely people actually do attentively listen to one another when interacting.”

As mentioned earlier, in most situations, it’s not like we don’t intend to listen to the other person, it’s just that we have a lot of hurdles to cross like distractions, tiredness, impatience, etc.

So, what could we do to become a better listener? Here are some simple tips-

1. Become Aware

Awareness is the first step in bringing about any change, internal or external. So, become aware of when you’re zoning out and then investigate the why. Doing this will help you understand what you need to work on.

2. Stay Focused & LISTEN

Try to avoid distractions & really listen; not just hear but listen. Try to understand what they’re saying & why. Focus only & only on that.

3. Wait to Speak

While its easy to fall prey to start planning our responses while the speaker is speaking or interrupt them with our overflow of thoughts, try working on this as it can be a big hurdle to impactful conversations you could be having instead. Wait your turn & don’t be afraid to take a pause before you respond meaningfully.

4. Ask Meaningful Questions

These could be to clarify what was just spoken or delve deeper into it. This not only shows that you care, but also helps you to engage in more meaningful conversations.

5. Be Open

And finally, be open. Be open to different perspectives, whether we like it or not. Even if you are conversing with someone you dislike, try your best to really listen to what they are trying to say. You never know, they might have a valid point after all, and you’ll never know until you simply listen. After all, good listening doesn’t have to mean agreeing with others or changing their minds, but simply being open.

Here’s a bonus tip from a TED-Ed video, “…there is something slightly performative about listening in that it’s important to show you’re doing it. So, in addition to actively attending to a speaker’s words, good listeners also use questions and body language that indicate their understanding and their desire to understand.”

These tiny changes can make a huge difference in not only the way you speak & listen, but more importantly, in the quality of your relationships & life.



There are several resources you can find online and offline to learn & practice the tips mentioned above. Here are some links that proved quite useful to me & I hope they can help you out too.


Feel free to add to this list, if you’d like!

To summarise, like Rashmi Karan says in a Shiksha Online article, “Active listening is like being an active participant in a game, while passive listening is like watching from the sidelines.” Get up from the sidelines & join the game. The beautiful game of healthy conversations cementing the stronghold of healthy relationships & a wonderful life.

At the end of the day, it isn’t about being a perfect listener. It’s about learning to better ourselves to lead a more enriching, happier life.


And now to you, are you a good listener? How could you be a better communicator? Which tip is your favorite? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, please drop a like and share it with your family and friends, and for further blog updates follow me on my Instagram handle @helzeeblog , on Wix and also on YouTube. See you next time! Till then, always remember, Be brave. Be strong. Be great.💛

~ helzeee 💛


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Lifestyle | Self-growth

Storyteller at my core & writer at my front, I'm here to share stories with you that help you see the magic in the world.💛


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