How to improve your listening: my top 10 success tips

by Betty Lochner on March 14, 2011

It takes two to speak the truth — one to speak and another to hear. ~ Thoreau

Ever feel like you could use a list of best practices for listening?  Well, here you go. The following are my top 10 success tips for improving your listening skills.

Now, here’s a 2-step process for how to make the most of this list:

1) Read it over and note which areas you already do well in and then circle the ones that you could improve on.

2) Take one that you have circled and make a plan to on it this week.  Just focus on that one tip and practice it until it starts to become comfortable for you.

Top 10 Listening Tips

  1. Keep an open mind.  Don’t judge by appearance or style.
  2. Stay on topic. Don’t change the subject.
  3. Focus on what is being said. Don’t rehearse your response.
  4. When you feel yourself interrupting, swallow.
  5. Pay attention to your body language.
  6. Stay calm. Control your emotions.
  7. Use questions to clarify your understanding.
  8. To dig deeper: “What I hear you saying is…” or “tell me more.”
  9. To paraphrase for understanding, say: “It sounds like…”
  10. Be positive. Nod and smile!

Which tip challenges you the most? Please share by leaving a comment!


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shaun Mayfield March 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Haha, I was just kidding, seemed liked you had observed my conversations. Those are the areas I struggle with the most as well.

Great point though on word choices and meanings!

Look forward to reading your previous and future posts!

2 Shaun Mayfield March 18, 2011 at 8:07 am


I asked where the biggest majority of people struggle with, not to point out my two largest flaws 😉 just kidding. Thanks for the reply, I will take it as a challenge to improve my listening skills!

3 Betty Lochner March 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I find the areas that most struggle most is paying attention to what you are doing – your body language, and what signals your are sending. In our culture, we have so many distractions to listening – worrying about what you are going to say, wanting to look at your phone for a message, wanting to be done. The other I see a lot of is interrupting — wanting to focus on your agenda instead of really listening.

4 Shaun Mayfield March 16, 2011 at 8:36 am


Great article on listening. As you have discovered, I am sure, a lot of arguments escalate and feelings end up hurt because listening was not happening. When we truly listen we stop hearing just words and start understanding the other person’s heart, emotions, and motives. When we move past our own ego then a true conversation begins.

Out of your list of ten, where do you find the biggest bell curve? Are there one or two specific areas that a majority of people struggle with?

5 Betty Lochner March 15, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Mitch, just check out your 168 to communicate. Great list. Thank you!

6 Mitch Carnell March 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Great list. Listening is by far the most important communication skill. Be 100 percent present in the moment. Check out my ” “168 Ways To Communicate Better Now,” at

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