Understanding what it means to actually listen to someone


With social media forcing its way into our lives, some of us struggle to find that real-life connection with someone when interacting with them. This article will teach you how to listen to someone and make them feel heard in a judgment-free space. It will teach you the essential skills that we often forget and that we need in the dawn of social media.

Understanding what it means to actually listen to someone

Active listening vs a normal conversation

With most of the conversations that we have, we are so focused on what our reply is going to be that we fail to listen to what the person we are conversing with is actually saying. It is all good and well to have a well thought out response, but it can make the person you are talking to feel unheard and leave the conversation feeling quite superficial. Most of our daily conversations are exactly this, it is superficial and it is normal to have these conversations too. Oftentimes, however, it is nice conversing with someone on a deeper level and to attempt to understand how they really feel about a matter. This is where active listening comes in. Active listening is listening in order to understand without trying to think of a reply but solely focusing on what the person is trying to communicate to you. Therefore, active listening mostly has to do with what is being said and less to do with the response to what is being said.

How can you actively listen?

Active listening has to do with more than just listening to what the person is saying but also how they say it, the tone of their voice, and even the body language they choose to use. You must be perceptive to see this and understand what they are saying in context to this. Do not interrupt the person speaking to you as you will be disrupting the flow of thought they are trying to convey to you. Make encouraging sounds like “yes” or “ahh” and so forth to show that you are listening, when appropriate. Repeat what they said, rephrase it, or even ask questions about it. This shows that you have paid attention and show genuine interest in what they are saying. Lastly, respond to what they said in an honest manner without being judgmental. They have the right to feel the way in which they do and their view deserves to be respected even if you do not agree with them.

Understanding what it means to actually listen to someone

How can you practice better listening?

Pay attention. Put that phone down or that book in your bag and pay attention to the person who is trying to speak with you. This will show them that you care, especially nowadays where everyone is constantly being bombarded with social media. Secondly, respond by repeating before commenting. This is psychology 101 because it makes people feel heard and then they leave the conversation feeling uplifted. Once again, try not to judge. The best way to practice this is perhaps to start small and with ‘easier’ conversations before you try to talk about difficult topics. Start actively listening to less intimate conversations and see what you can learn from it. The best thing is to just keep trying to actively listen. Practice makes perfect after all!