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    17 Tips To ACTUALLY Listen When Someone Else Is Talking

    AKA how to make everyone in your life feel a little more special. Are you listening?

    Jenny Chang for BuzzFeed
    Jenny Chang for BuzzFeed

    1. Understand that good listening is almost entirely about how you RESPOND.

    2. Think about how you talk to a 4-year-old. Then try to match that (within reason) when you're talking to an adult.

    3. Actually pay full attention to what the other person is saying.

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    If you're thinking too much about what you want to say next (or what you want for dinner), that means that you'll miss some of the things that the other person is saying. Then you'll end up responding in a way that doesn't make total sense, or makes them feel like you've just been ignoring them. Which you have been.

    4. When you're responding, focus first on something you can agree with.

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    A lot of the time, people have conversations with the assumption that either one person can be right OR the other person can be right, but not both, Heitler says.

    So when it's your turn to talk, find a way to start with something you agree with:

    "Yes, this winter really has been dragging on forever, eternally, never to end."

    Not this:

    "I don't know, this winter wasn't that bad."

    5. After you've found your point of agreement, use the word "and" to add to the conversation, and avoid the words "no," "not," and "but."

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    These negating words can make the conversation feel like a competition, rather than a shared experience — and can make the other person feel unheard.

    So, do this:

    "Yes, this winter really has been dragging on forever. And it's already officially spring and everything, seriously what is happening in life." In this scenario, you have added to the conversation, and made the other person feel like you're on the same page.

    Not this:

    "Yes, this winter really has overstayed its welcome, but honestly, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." In this scenario, you have made the person feel like a foolish weakling for complaining.

    6. Sarcasm is the worst.

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    OK, maybe not always...but most of the time. At least if your goal is to be a good listener.

    Sarcasm says:

    I'm judging you. What you're saying isn't worth a serious response. I'm more concerned with being seen as funny than with making you feel comfortable.

    Sarcasm doesn't say:

    I hear you. I feel you. We're on the same page. I want to learn more about what you think or feel or do.

    Replying to someone in earnest shows vulnerability, trust, and respect — and encourages them to open up more.

    Jenny Chang for BuzzFeed

    7. In social situations, being a good listener means being a good conversationalist.

    8. When the other person is talking, listen for a key word or phrase, and then use it as a springboard to dive into your next comment or question.

    9. Start your questions with the words "how" and "what" to leave them open-ended.

    10. Don't JUST ask questions — you have to share information about yourself too.

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    RoAne points out that unbalanced conversations are boring or uncomfortable for almost everyone. And if all you're doing is asking question after question, the person you're talking to is going to feel interrogated, not listened to.

    The best conversations have three traits, in roughly equal measure: asking questions, making observations, and then revealing related stories, thoughts, or experiences from your own perspective.

    11. If you can't relate at all to a certain topic of conversation, borrow your friends' stories and share those.

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    "You can borrow from other peoples' lives to help make conversation," RoAne says, as long as you're not sharing personal secrets or divulging information that isn't yours to tell. For example, if someone is telling you about their recent skydiving experience, but you haven't personally been skydiving, you could talk to them about your other friend who had a great experience bungee jumping, and what do they think about bungee jumping compared to skydiving, is it the same or different or what.

    12. Learn how to interrupt with kindness.

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    Anyone will tune out when someone is droning on and on and on. Heitler says that you should learn to interrupt in a gracious but effective way, saving both you and the person you're talking to from feeling awkward. Grab onto something that they've said, and jump off from that. That way it's clear you've heard them, and it feels like the conversation is transitioning naturally.

    Try this: "Wait, did you just say [____]? That reminds me: [_____]."

    Jenny Chang for BuzzFeed

    Ah, relationships.

    13. First: Find common ground. Always, always.

    14. It's OK to disagree with your partner. Just, if you're trying to be a better listener, you should do it in a way that's constructive, rather than defensive or dismissive.

    15. If you find yourself getting emotional or defensive, take a break from the conversation and revisit it later.

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    Once emotions and defensiveness enter the picture, good listening goes out the window. If you feel like you can't concentrate on the "find common ground" rule listed above, tell your partner: "I'm getting worked up and having a hard time thinking clearly right now. I need to clear my head for a few minutes, and then when I've calmed down let's talk about this again."

    The key is actually revisiting the conversation after you've chilled out, and focusing on keeping it productive by finding common ground and then building on it, Heitler says.

    16. If your PARTNER is being emotional, defensive, or not listening...try to pause the conversation then too.

    Say the same thing: "This is getting pretty emotional and heated, and I'd rather we figure this out when we're both a little calmer. Let's take a break and revisit this in a few minutes."

    Yes, sometimes this is easier said than done. Hey, we're talking about your listening skills, here.

    17. And finally: If your partner is upset about something that ISN'T related to you or something you did...don't immediately try to fix it.

    There, there. Doesn't that feel better?

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