Personal Development Tips: 3 Simple Ways to Become an Effective Listener

You hear it all the time, but it’s true enough that it’s worth reiterating. If you want to be listened to, you’ve got to listen. This is just a specific instance of the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Listen to them. And even if you don’t want to be listened to, being an effective listener is one of the most important things you can do to develop healthy social relationships in general. Here are three ways to become an effective listener that you should keep in mind, even if you are one already.

3 Simple Ways to Become an Effective Listener

Stay Aware of the Conversational Floor

The so-called conversational floor is a fancy term for the terms of discussion. In other words, the conversational floor is the sum total of the tones you and your interlocutor are using; how you’re both reacting to what’s being said; and, fundamentally, what’s being discussed. In being an effective listener, it’s important to pay close attention to how what you’re saying is being taken and to pay just as close attention to how you’re reacting yourself. This is what makes a conversation: Attention. It comes into play in one other aspect of the conversation, as well . . .

Stay Dynamic

Another important factor in becoming an effective listener is staying dynamic. Now, this is more of a conversational trick than a listening one in general, but the idea is, if you can have a good conversation, you have to be listening since it’s only by listening that you can engineer the topics of speech in a positive way. This is exactly the principle we’re employing here. If you pay attention to what’s being said and how it’s being reacted to, you’ll be able to take that information and apply it in determining what the person you’re talking with wants to talk about next, or, more relevantly, wants you to take away from what he or she is saying.

When you identify this, it’s your job to inquire about it, or at least to acknowledge that it’s been identified (“Oh, so you mean that . . . “). This is the mark of a good listener: One who can see what’s being discussed, identify its context, and understand what about it is important, and why.

3 Simple Ways to Become an Effective Listener

Participate, but Shut Up

Finally, we have to recommend that, in order to be the most effective listener you can be, it’s important to talk about yourself only when there’s a lull in the conversation. Remember, you’re listening, not presenting. Hear what your partner has to say, ask the questions he or she suggests (as discussed above), pay attention to what you’re talking about – but keep the information about you to a minimum, since, important as you are, telling is not listening. It’s important to talk about yourself a little bit, however, so it’s not that you shouldn’t: It’s just that you should refrain from doing so unless the conversation you’ve listened to so far suggests you do!

It’s your turn!

Do you consider yourself to be an effective listener?  Do you feel that the tips I’ve shared will help you with your business?  Please feel free to share your feedback in the comments section and I look forward to reading them.

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22 responses to “Personal Development Tips: 3 Simple Ways to Become an Effective Listener”

  1. Donna Ward says:

    Love it – Stay Dynamic and Shut Up – I go to so many networking groups – and it seems a lot of the opposite is going on – I have become a great listener and shut up – also helping to make them feel listened to! Thank you 🙂

  2. “Conversational Floor”… never heard that before but it makes a lot of sense.

    Being a good listener is one of the things I pride myself in; it definitely isn’t as easy as it seems! Great article and advice.

  3. Greg Mock says:

    Hey Nate. Sometimes I know I gotta learn to use number 3 more often. 🙂 Thanks for the short, quick, and useful advice as always.

  4. Ryan says:

    I think it’s sad that with all these new ways technology has to help us communicate the art of having a face to face conversation seems to be lacking these days. A reciprocal conversation used to be common place. A good listener is also someone, I think, who not only hears the words being spoken but can also listen to what’s actually being said.

    Peace out! 🙂

  5. Hi Nate,

    3 is dead on.

    SU. Listen, listen, listen. When a lull arises, talk.

    Only exception I have experienced is when someone rambles for way too long a time.

    At that moment I hop in to move the convo along, but that is it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Cindy Eidahl says:

    Great tips. I think I am a better listener than talker.
    I find that if there is a slowing down of talking, I will ask a question
    to keep the conservation going and it is usually about the other person and not myself. 🙂

  7. Great article! I agree with all three points. So many are formulating a response, but not really listening. Participate, but shut up is brilliant!

  8. Adam Payne says:

    Interesting post Nate. Being British, I find that we have a different communication style to Americans. And as for other cultures it varies too.

    Did you know that the acceptable length for silence between utterances is 1.4 Seconds in westernised nations. Longer and one person will feel ill at ease. It is 13 seconds in Japan!

    Also, using backchannels such as aha, mmhmm, I see shows the speaker you are listening, although it does not guarantee comprehension.

    Good stuff, I enjoyed this post.


  9. Caro Ness says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more! Listening WELL is a hard thing to do and knowing when to be quiet is critical.

    • Nate Leung says:

      Yes, it’s a challenge for many people. It’s a skill that needs to be learned provided that the person is ready to learn it. Thanks for the comments!

  10. My other company is a training company. I teach people how to sell. Listening is key to the success in any sale. I do not agree with scripts.

    • Nate Leung says:

      Hi Anita,

      Yes, listening to your prospects wants, needs and desires are important. In some cases scripts are useful. Some situations things need to roll off the tongue. Thank you for the comments Anita!

  11. lyn morris says:

    Becoming a more effective listener is one of the most important skills that you can develop if you want to have better interactions with people. Thanks Nate

  12. Amar Naik says:

    well i am trying to build this skill in myself. thanks for sharing this great post

  13. Jason Power says:


    Good information I think poor listening is a huge mistake especially in a business setting. It’s a great way to push people away right away. I even struggle sometimes but constant improvement is always the goal.

    Great Advice,


    • Nate Leung says:

      Hi Jason,

      That is always the goal. It’s process in the beginning. Once you make a decision that you are going to be an effective listener, it becomes easier from there. Thank for the feedback!

  14. Hi Nate,
    I like the so what you mean is….that’s a great example. Would love to have seen more examples of exact ways to be more effective.

    I tend to talk a lot in conversations because people ask me question after question. I want to listen MORE so I’m going to work on that.

    Thanks again
    Power Coach Alishia

    • Nate Leung says:

      Hi Alisha,

      A good way to know that you’re talking about it, is to get in a zone and be consciously aware that you are talking too much. At the end of that day you will be listening to the person you are helping and instead of being ‘interesting’, you want to be ‘interested’. This is a skill set that many people need to work on but once you make that decision to become a better listener, days, weeks and months from now you will become a better listener. Thank you for the comments!

  15. Nomusa says:

    One mouth, two ears. that’s a good clue as to which is more important. Thanks for the reminder Nate.

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