Knowing how to listen well is an important component in relationships at work, in marriage, bringing up children, in leadership, and even taking the time to hear a homeless person. Listening is an act of compassion and caring.

If you’re going to use your precious time to listen to someone who needs comforting, you might as well do it right.  Good listeners either knowingly or unknowingly practice a set of skills that are very effective in providing a valuable service to the listened.

You must show that you are truly interested in the person talking.  They need to feel that someone cares. You can show them by using these simple tips:

  1. Maintain eye contact. This creates connection and lets the talker know you are interested
  1. Don’t interrupt or ask questions.
  1. Use empathetic body language such as nodding your head, leaning closer, sitting with arms open. Don’t look up or around. Pay attention.
  1. Don’t offer solutions. This is not the time to try to “fix” them or their problem.

Why is listening so effective and “therapeutic” to both the listened to and the listener?

Here are five reasons:

  1. When someone is upset, they usually feel like they were treated as if they weren’t important, that they didn’t matter.  When you provide a safe situation for them to blow off steam, they feel validated.  They feel cared about.  They feel understood.
  1. Anger and sadness are debilitating emotions.  If a person has a way to safely “vent” negative feelings, an opening is created for healing and solutions.
  1. As the listener, you need to be patient.  Good listening involves just being there and not interrupting.  As a listener, you develop more strength in patience.  Today when most people are in a hurry and feel like they never have enough time, listening helps you understand, that you do have the time to be kind and generous, two qualities that improve your own self-esteem.
  1. Save a life. Who knows how a distraught person is emotionally?  Your act of listening may save a life!

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