Tips for Listening Better

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey emphasizes that to communicate effectively, we must “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” This principle is essential for building strong relationships. Covey teaches that empathic listening involves deeply understanding another person’s perspective before offering your own input, which fosters trust and effective communication.

But as important as listening is, Covey only provides one way of enhancing listening skills. He highlights the practice of empathic listening, which involves deeply understanding another person’s perspective before offering your own input. This type of listening means not just hearing the words but also rephrasing and reflecting back what the speaker has said to ensure understanding. By summarizing their key points and acknowledging their emotions, you show that you are fully engaged and respectful of their viewpoint.

While I love the idea of improving my listening skills, I would always go back to Convey’s ideas of empathic listening. Then I picked up, ADHD Is Awesome, by Penn Holderness. In it, Penn talks about ways to improve listening skills. He shares his personal struggles with staying focused during conversations, highlighting how his mind often drifts to unrelated thoughts. This challenge can lead to interruptions and a sense of disconnect in relationships.

People with ADHD are pathologically selfish when it comes to conversations. Their brains are wired to jump from one thought to another, making it difficult to stay present and engaged. This isn’t intentional, but it can come across as inattentive or rude, causing frustration for both the speaker and the listener.

They tend to focus on what they want to say more than listening to other people. I know we all do this, but ADHD people are particularly bad. The constant influx of new thoughts makes it challenging to keep track of the conversation and respond appropriately, often leading to interruptions and off-topic comments.

He then shares some interesting tips on how to better build relationships by being a better listener. He suggests several techniques that can help people stay focused and engaged during conversations. I’m going to take some of those and add some more myself:

  1. Mindful Listening: Treat the conversation like a meditation session, focusing intently on the other person like there’s nothing else in the world. Relax your mind to truly take in what they are saying.
  2. Mine for Gold: Look for the most important points in the conversation. Challenge yourself to understand what is most important to the person speaking and find evidence to support your understanding. Acknowledge their points by saying, “It sounds like what you’re saying is __. Did I get that right?”
  3. Go High: Analyze the conversation from a higher perspective. Ask yourself what in the conversation is new to you, what challenges your ideas, and what is of personal interest. These hooks can help you stay engaged and listen more effectively.
  4. Push the Conversation Forward: Try to understand where the person is going in the conversation and try to increase the energy. Instead of trying to say what you think is most interesting, try to focus on how you can say what’s useful to the conversation to keep it moving. Think about how to keep your conversation partner most engaged.
  5. Be curious: When you think you think the other person is wrong about something, rather than telling them or providing contrary information, ask them for more information. “Tell me more about that…” is a wonderful way to learn more about what the other person is thinking. ​

By integrating these techniques into your daily interactions, you can improve your listening skills, enhance your relationships, and ensure that the people you care about feel heard and valued.