5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Active Listening Skills ( & Build Better Relationships)

Learning to listen is the most important part of communication.

How To Improve Your Active Listening & Communication Skills For Better Intimacy And Understanding by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Can you remember the last time you were in a conversation and only half paying attention?

Maybe you were checking your phone? Maybe you nodded your head and gave a few “Umm-hmms,” and “Yeahs?"

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We’ve all been there. Standing in front of someone, not listening. Pretending you were paying attention when you were really checked-out.

Of course, technology makes things worse. Devices — like cellphones — are more tempting than ever.

People often treat face-to-face communication like another background app on a phone: Something you passively acknowledge until a notification tells you to actually pay attention.

Usually, that notification arrives with a sharp incrimination of, “You’re not listening to anything I’m saying.”

1. Remember that active listening is about showing you care

The real issue when it comes to listening isn’t necessarily your phone; it's a lack of caring. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters — that human being talking to you.


You stopped listening because your mind prioritized something else. Maybe it’s another thought. Maybe it's a buzz in your pocket.

Whatever preoccupies you happens so quickly and unconsciously you probably don’t even realize your attention's been highjacked.

This is the situation everyone faces. Your nervous system is trying to integrate an endless world of incoming stimuli and your conscious mind is struggling to keep up.

Thankfully, there's a way to override this distractible circuitry and redirect your focus so you can actively listen. It is a practice called “Golden Eyes.”

The Golden Eyes idea comes from the work of author and philosopher Ken Wilber at the Integral Center. Simply put, it is a reminder to start every interaction with this thought:


What if this person in front of me was an incredibly wise being? What if he or she was more developed, more awakened, and more intelligent than I could ever imagine?

I can feel you tightening up.

You really want me to believe that other people are wiser and more developed?

Yes. Whether it’s true doesn’t matter. The intention it creates makes all the difference. When you start to see others through “golden eyes,” you stop half-listening. You no longer treat people like insignificant chatter and choose to pay attention to them regardless.

2. Putting your full attention will make others feel heard and respected

Imagine having a conversation with Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or someone that you admire. How would you show up in that conversation?


Chances are you would be respectful, curious, and ready to listen. No?

You would naturally pay attention because you believe that person has gifts to offer. When you assume you are talking to a very wise person, you will want to listen.

You will want to ask questions, and you will want to learn everything you can from the precious interaction.

Golden Eyes turns everyone into a teacher and reignites the world with possibility. Moreover, it actually feels good to actively listen.

It makes you connect with your innate curiosity, and people can feel that when they’re with you. There’s a certain energy and resonance of being fully attuned to another person.


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3. Being attentive in your conversations will empower people to be their best

A beautiful thing occurs when you treat others as enlightened beings. You begin to hold the space for them to bring forth their highest potential.


This is often apparent in conversations with kids. When you treat children with the intelligence and maturity of an adult, they often rise to the occasion and show up as more mature and more developed.

Conversely, when you infantilize them, they're likely to regress back to immature patterns of interacting.

In other words, how you approach the interaction can create the possibility for people to show up as the best version of themselves or the worst.

When you create space for their greatness, it draws their light out into the world.

It’s not just with kids: The same holds true for adults.

Create a space for them to shine, and then step back and listen. It’s a spectacular thing to watch someone open up once given permission to shine and your full undivided attention.


4. Addressing each conversation with importance will uplift you, as well

Imagine when someone treats you as a wise, developed person worthy of being listened to.

How would it feel? Pretty good, right?

You want others to take an interest in who you are. It makes you feel validated, appreciated, and respected.


The act of being seen as a wise person makes it more likely for you to bring these qualities forward within yourself, creating an upward spiral of good intention.

5. Practicing active listening and communicating will eliminate misunderstandings

You want to see and be seen, not just for who you are, but for who you may become.

The Golden Eyes practice highlights how your expectations of others, even if they’re unspoken, can actually influence how they show up.

By half-listening, you're not only being rude, but you're actually disempowering the other person. In turn, this creates a responsibility for you to call forth everyone’s best when you are in conversation.


So the next time you’re interacting with someone, young or old, stranger or family, hold open the possibility that they are more awakened and more developed than you are.

Doing so almost guarantees a conversation that is richer and more meaningful than you might ever have expected.

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Jeff Siegel is a holistic wellness coach, life coach, and author. He can be reached by email about private one-on-one life coaching.