The Social Benefits of Being a Good Listener

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The most beneficial social skill of all might be listening.

Listening well is practicing mindfulness, being aware of what is occurring in the moment without judging it. This kind of listening is usually called attentive or active listening.

Whether feeling happy, anxious, or depressed, listening well helps you feel more comfortable socially and get your needs met.

Six Benefits of Active Listening

People love being heard. If you offer someone your complete attention, they will likely notice since this is rare. Too often people half-listen to each other. We hear the gist of what is said but are also thinking about what story or opinion to share next, or about what sounds good for dinner.

  1. Being listened to attentively is a validation of worth. It makes people feel positive about themselves—that they matter. Robert Baden-Powell wrote, “If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.”
  2. When you actively listen, the mind is quiet but alert. A quiet mind is not thinking about what it hears. This allows intuitions, new ideas, and remembered bits of information to float into awareness. You might be amazed by the pearls of wisdom that materialize in a still mind.
  3. Active listening dissolves worry about what to say next. A good listener has reactions to the words and actions of others, and those natural reactions will guide your response. Reactions can be thoughts, feelings, instincts, memories, or an intuition. You already know how to listen without planning your next move—you do it whenever you put on music and let yourself get lost in the sounds.
  4. When attentively listening your focus is off yourself. Life is momentarily “not about you.” You are a guest in someone else’s world by quieting your mind. However, do not be surprised if people suddenly find you more interesting to be around. When we listen well we usually have more things of substance to share.
  5. Because your attention is on another’s world, observing their tone of voice, body language, gestures, and facial expressions will become, with practice, second nature. These observations help us read between the speaker’s lines, to pick up on what is not being said.
  6. Though listening mindfully is not about you, it might generate a habit of listening deeply to yourself. You may be more in tune with your hunches, feelings, thoughts, and wishes.

Active listening does not mean putting up with those who chatter on about trivia, or keep repeating themselves, or tell one too many golf stories. Part of being a skilled listener is knowing when to redirect or end a painful conversation.

Photo credit: Alessandro Valli / flickr

 
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