5 Ways To Fine-Tune Your Listening Skills (That Will Make You A Better Partner)

Hearing is not the same as listening.

listening skills communication getty

Hearing and listening are related. Similar yet very different. We hear loud sounds, the wind, someone laughing or yelling. And then what? We just get on with our day.

Listening, ah, another story entirely.

Were you ever told to "listen up" when you were a kid? Did someone ever say, "Hey, will you just shut up and listen?"

Here the big question: Were you ever taught to listen?

Think of it this way. You were not born a violinist because you have hands. And you were not born a listener just because you have ears.


RELATED: 10 Dos And Don'ts For Healthy Relationship Communication

Saying "I hear you" is a world away from saying "I’m listening to you." The following rules for effective listening are for every boss, employee, teenage son and daughter, and every romantic partner. Listening skills improve workplace relationships and benefit in the boardroom as well as the bedroom.


The following five rules will make your life easier and who doesn't want easier? Before I give you the rules, here is a basic primer on anatomy and sound.

Once you say something, anything, even "It’s going to rain today" the sound waves from your voice will enter my auditory canal and make their way via impulses to my brain. And when I respond, "Who do you think you are, the weatherman?" no matter how I say it, either kindly, jokingly, and roughly, the same reaction will happen.

Sound waves will enter your auditory canal and follow the route up to your brain.

So, that’s it for hearing.



RELATED: 5 Listening Skills To Make Every Conversation More Valuable

It’s simple. You don’t have to like me, agree with me, or want to answer me, you and I will have heard each other. Hearing is a good thing and part of being a species on this planet.

Now, let’s get to listening. Here is where we really pay attention to each other. Here is where emotions enter the dance. Here is where we can either make it work or make it worse.

Here are 5 rules on how to communicate better to help you on your journey from hearing to listening:

  1. Stop talking: Not much else to say about this first rule. You can’t talk and listen at the same time.
  2. Unwrap your mind: Focus on what is coming to you. Stay with these sound waves. They will soon become words and sentences with meaning and yes, emotion.
  3. Become a lie-detector: Listen with your eyes, your gut, your skin, your spine. Notice when you get a bodily reaction that says safe and steady or bling, bling, bling, it's baloney. I guarantee you will be mostly right than not.
  4. Be careful with what you say: Telling the truth is not spilling your guts and using discretion to not say more than is necessary is smart business.
  5. Hold your judgment: Gain more information by asking open-ended questions and then go back to rule one and start the listening process over again.

It’s always great to grab a coach for a few sessions to find out how good your listening skills are and find the newest ways to communicate in these days of fast technology.

RELATED: How To Listen — Without Getting Defensive

Sylvia Lafair is a noted authority on leadership and a consultant to family firms, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs, her message is unique and timely; her insights universal and relevant. Want more useful information about leadership? Get Dr. Lafair’s weekly newsletter!