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Six Steps to Becoming an Engaged Listener [Video]

Becoming an Engaged Listener

Becoming an engaged listener may come naturally for you. If it doesn’t, try the following steps, and with practice, you may feel more satisfied in your relationships and more connected. Being an engaged listener can help deepen existing relationships and help you navigate moments of conflict or tension.

Step One: Focus Fully on the Speaker

Engaged listening includes listening to the words being said, but also be aware of body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal cues. Be fully present to what is being communicated and how it’s being presented. Give the person your full, undivided attention.

Step Two: Favor Your Right Ear

The left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying. Keep your posture straight, your chin down, and tilt your right ear towards the speaker. This will help pick up on the higher frequencies of human speech that contain the emotional content of what someone is saying.

Step Three: Avoid Interrupting

Or redirecting the conversation to your concerns or agenda. Concentrate on what the person is saying rather than thinking about what you’re going to say next; stay present.

Step Four: Show Your Interest in What is Being Said

Use encouraging, non-verbal communication: leaning in towards the person, nodding, smiling, having open body language. Make sure your posture is open and inviting.

Step Five: Suspend Judgment or Blame While Listening

You may not agree with or even like what the person is saying, however it’s important to suspend judgement or blame while listening. Doing so can help you be more receptive. This can be challenging in moments of conflict, so remember to breathe. If you’re able to be more open to hear what the person is saying, you’ll be more likely to understand them and possibly improve your connection to them. The most difficult communication when successfully executed can lead to an unlikely and profound connection with someone.

Step Six: Paraphrase What You Heard and Seek Clarification

It can be helpful to reflect back what you’ve heard, ask questions to get more information. You might say something like, “So what I heard you say was…”, or “It sounds like what you were saying…”. In your own words, you can ask to interpret if what you heard was accurate. You can ask questions to clarify certain points by asking something like, “What do you mean when you say…”, or “Is this what you mean…?”.

If you are able to follow these steps, you will increase your ability to hear and understand what the other person is saying. Breathing will help you remain present and calm, being aware that subtleties in communication may not only help you be a better and more engaged listener, it may help you deepen your relationship with the person involved.

What is an example of something someone does that tells you the are truly present and listening?


Glenn Zermeno, LCSW - NYC Therapist

Glenn Zermeno, LCSW - NYC Therapist

Psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC
Offers individual and couples counseling in NYC. Specializes in LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS, relationships Issues, and depression.
Glenn Zermeno, LCSW - NYC Therapist
4 replies
  1. Zach
    Zach says:

    Glenn, this is such a wonderful guide to help us train our ears to focus on what is being communicated. We must do everything we can to reclaim the art of conversation in our screen-addicted culture.

    • Rich
      Rich says:

      Thanks Glenn for keeping it body focused- as one focuses on the others non verbal cues they can become aware of their own embodied ways of communicating their own needs and expressions! Wonderful!!


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