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How to Be a Good Listener?

Careful listening can build good relations. It can help you make friends and settle arguments.

Some practical advice


a) non-verbally – letting your ‘body lan­guage’ show that you are paying attention: nodding1 your head, frequently looking the person in the eye, etc. When seated lean2 forward slightly. Don’t scowl3, frown, fold your arms, etc.

b) verbally – inviting the speaker to say more, e.g. by saying: I see. Really? Oh? Tell me more.


Pay attention to the speaker. Don’t inter­rupt4 him/her even though you think you know what the speaker is going to say. Save your thoughts until the other person has fin­ished talking.


Restate (paraphrase) what the other person has said in your own words. This will tell the speaker whether you understood what he or she said, and it will give the speaker a chance to explain again and correct any misunderstanding. Ask questions if necessary. Typical phrases used in beginning a clarify­ing5 response: Are you saying (restate in other words)? I heard you say (then summarize).


In paraphrasing the other person’s ideas don’t mimic or parrot6 his/her exact words. Also, avoid any indication of approval7 or disapproval. Refrain from blaming8, giving advice or persuading9. For example, the phrase "Oh, you shouldn’t let that upset10 you!" suggests that the per­son’s feelings are wrong. But feelings are not right or wrong – they just are. Sometimes people just want to express their feelings – they are not looking for advice.

If you have something to offer, ask first. Try to show understanding and acceptance of the other person’s feelings or experience. For example, say “Yes, I see that this is important to you”, or “I understand (appre­ciate, value) what it means to you (or how it makes you feel)”, or “It’s really sad (great, emotional, amazing, unfair, etc.).”

Especially important is to show under­standing and acceptance of the other per­son’s expressed feelings or opinions when you want to disagree, or when you have dif­ferent opinion or perspective. In this case it is appropriate to say “What you have said is really important (you can repeat the per­son’s statement). There is something that I want to add (point out, mention).

Smiling is one of the most important indi­cators of a good listener! This does not mean laughing at someone, or grinning, or an ironic face. Just keeping a friendly smile on your face, nodding your head and saying "uhm..." from time to time will get you the recognition of a good listener and a nice person. This will be an important message to another person, which will indicate that you are happy to be in his/her company, that you are paying attention to the con­versation, and you are not preoccupied with your own stressful or sad thoughts instead of listening.


1 nod – кивнуть головой

2 lean – наклоняться; склоняться

3 scowl –хмуриться, хмурить брови;смотреть сердито

4 inter­rupt –обрывать, прерывать

5 clarify –прояснить

6 parrot – механически повторять

7 approval –одобрение; благоприятное мнение

8 blame –порицать, осуждать, критиковать

9 persuade –убеждать (в чём-л.); урезонивать

10 upset – расстраивать, огорчать


93 per cent of our communica­tion with others is non-verbal. What we actu­ally say makes up only seven per cent of the picture! That’s what US scientist Ray Birdwhistell found out when he began to study body language back in the 1950s. He filmed conversations and then played them back in slow motion to examine gestures, expressions and posture1. When he noticed the same move­ments happening again and again, he realised that the body can talk too!

We use our bodies to send mes­sages all the time. We nod instead of saying “Yes, shrug our shoulders to mean “I don’t know”, or raise our eye­brows to show surprise.

But even when we don’t want other people to know how we’re feel­ing, our body language can give us away2. The way we sit or stand, the expression on our face can reveal3 far more than words.


1 give away – выдавать, разоблачать (кого-л.)

2 posture – положение тела, поза

3 reveal – обнаруживать, показывать


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