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What Does it Take to Be a Good Listener?

women in conversation

When it comes to facing challenges, a good listener can make all the difference.

Someone who takes the time to tune in to your concerns with care and compassion can help ease your hardship, find a solution, and make you feel better. But would you be able to return the favor? While anyone can listen, doing it effectively requires more than opening your ears.

Once you get the hang of it, though, the payoff is well worth the gesture--for both of you. Not only will you be helping a friend in need, you’ll develop patience, gain trust and insight, and be appreciated.

Use Gentle Body Language

Body language says a lot when you’re engaged in a conversation with someone. When listening to a friend in need, let down your guard. Show your compassionate side with a gentle touch of your hand, a warm hug, or a relaxed posture. Body language that’s tense will only make your friend tense too. Adopting an aura of calmness, on the other hand, will put everyone at ease.

Focus Your Attention

Ever felt like the person on the other end of the phone is doing something else while listening to you? It’s annoying at best, not to mention highly discouraging for those pouring their hearts out. When listening to someone talk, put away your work and other distractions and offer your full attention. Listen as you would want to be listened to--with focus.

Make Eye Contact

Looking at people directly when they’re talking assures them that you’re engaged and listening. Get in the habit of making eye contact while you listen, especially when someone is in a vulnerable state. Eye contact helps put confidence and trust in you as a listener, plus you’ll be able to better absorb the conversation, thereby improving your listening skills.

Ask If You Can Offer

Not everyone wants advice. Some people have a lot to unload, and all they want in return is a listening ear. If you start spouting off suggestions, you’ve gone from listener to lecturer.

Giving unsolicited advice can, in fact, harm your relationship. Instead, ask if you can offer counsel. The talker retains control that way and may be more likely to seek your opinion.


Empathy isn’t always an easy thing to feel, but it’s a great asset for a listener. People who possess empathy can do wonders for helping a friend in need. Having the ability to put yourself in your friend’s shoes can help you feel more connected to him or her. It’ll also help you listen more actively, glean a better perspective of the problem, and find that silver lining.

Follow Up

The best listeners don’t stop listening after the initial conversation. Check back with your friend a day or two later and see if things have improved or if there’s more to talk about. Don’t wait for a phone call.

A good listener will reach out to the one in need by following up in the short-term as well as down the road.

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