Improve your listening skills

Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages. 

"The best way to understand people is to listen to them."  --Ralph Nichols

Employers, employees, students, parents--everyone--benefits from good listening skills.  Those with good listening skills are better communicators with the ability to influence, persuade and successfully negotiate. 

The power of a whisper : [hearing God, having the guts to respond]
Bill Hybels.
Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan, cp2010.
Full-throttle faith resides in fully yielded hearts. In this unabridged audio CD of The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond, Bill Hybels reveals the attitudes and actions that help us hear directly from heaven as we navigate the most significant challenges on earth.
The lost art of listening : how learning to listen can improve relationships
Michael P. Nichols.
New York ; London : Guilford Press, c2009.
Drawing on 35 years of experience as a psychoanalyst and family therapist, Nichols (psychology, College of William and Mary) explains secrets of successful communication that will help readers reduce arguments, get uncommunicative people to open up, and get through to people who never seem to listen. He explains why listening is so important in our lives, and explores the hidden assumptions, unconscious needs, and emotional reactions that are the real reasons people don't listen. He gives techniques for controlling emotional reactivity to become a better listener and make oneself heard, and explores the dynamics of listening between intimate partners, families, friends, and people at work. Chapter exercises give readers a chance to practice techniques. Annotation #169;2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Listening below the noise : a meditation on the practice of silence
Anne D. LeClaire ; photography by Christopher LeClaire.
New York : Harper, c2009.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 223-224).
Are you really listening? : keys to successful communication
Paul J. Donoghue, Mary E. Siegel.
Notre Dame, Ind. : Sorin Books, c2005.
A thoughtful, witty, and helpful look at the reasons people don't hear one another. With easy-to-learn techniques for becoming a better listener, Are You Really Listening? is a guide to listening and being listened to.

People speak at 100-175 words per minute, but can listen at 600-800 words per minute.  It is important to take advantage of the mind's ability to think more quickly than a person can talk.

Listener types:

Linear: take in material as it is presented from point A to point B - listening comes naturally

Associative: connect ideas presented to things they already know - take notes or ask questions

(from Face-to-face communications for clarity and impact)

Active listeners stay focused and involved by:

  • Not confusing hearing (passive) with active listening (involves thinking)
  • Listening to what is said; not what the listener wants to hear
  • Focusing on speaker's content, not delivery
  • Taking notes or asking questions (verbal and  mental)
  • Avoiding distractions (in the environment, from the speaker, within the listener
  • Arriving early at meetings prepared to listen
  • Monitoring a conversation be sure one person is  not doing all the talking
  • Using nonverbal communication behaviors (smiles, gestures, eye contact, posture)

Listening can improve relationships with co-workers and family.  Make time to practice effective listening skills.


Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff