How to Be a Better Listener

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.39.09 PMFind your voice.
Tell your story.
Spread your message.
Broadcast yourself. 

No matter who we are, how old we are, or where we come from…whether we’re talking to our kiddos, our customers, our bosses, or complete strangers….

We’re pretty obsessed with talking and sharing. We want to be HEARD.

We want to know that someone is really listening to what we have to say.

But it’s reeeeally noisy out here.

And just because we HEAR someone doesn’t mean we’re really listening. (Tweet that!)

Let’s talk about how to fix that.

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • The biggest mistakes most of us make when “listening” to other people
  • A simple way to be mindful about the noise that SO easily distracts us
  • How to make your (conversational) partner feel like the only one in the room
  • Why genuine, mindful listening really can make a WORLD of difference

Click below to watch (or take a listen):

Click here to watch directly on YouTube.


  1. Stop talking. Literally – If you want to become a better listener, you’ve got to stop. talking. (Tweet that!)
  2. Minimize noise + distractions. Externally: Shut off the phone, close the laptop, turn off the TV. Internally: Try to turn down the distracted thoughts like “I’m hungry. How long will this take? What’s new with her hair?”
  3. Listen to learn. Expect to learn something new. Take notes! Pay attention as if you’ll be quizzed after.
  4. Make it obvious you’re listening. Make eye contact. Lean in. Nod your head. Say “yep, right…” as appropriate.
  5. Don’t interrupt or plan what you’re going to say. SO HARD. But necessary. Let her finish first!
  6. Check for understanding. Don’t assume. Ask questions for clarification and repeat back by paraphrasing.
  7. Listen between the lines. Pay attention to what s/he’s NOT saying or how s/he’s saying it. Nonverbal cues can provide useful info!

When we take time to tune out the noise and pay attention to what others are saying, everybody wins – our families, our businesses, our communities, and the whole freakin’ WORLD.


You will LOVE this TED video called “5 Ways to Listen Better” by Julian Treasure. #commnerdsunite


In the comments below, share:

Which of these tips will you try first?

How do you feel when you know someone’s REALLY listening to you?

For bonus points, really start putting these tips into practice and report back with results.

(i.e. Next time your toddler says, “Mommy, watch this funny joke,” DROP. EVERYTHING. It will be so worth it.)

To the great lessons we learn from listening,


P.S. If you liked this post + want to help me spread the word by using the links below to share it with your buddies, I would greatly appreciate it! You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel if you’d like to see new videos before I’ve had time to turn them into blog posts ;)



  1. Larissa

    Two ears and one mouth, to listen more than we talk! That is what I am always telling my Miss 7, who wakes up in the morning, starts talking and never seems to stop! I am known as a good listener, but using these tools, to try to teach my daughter this much needed skill, is a fantastic idea!
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Love that, Larissa :) What a great mama she’s got!

  2. Aradia

    I think I definitely want to work on #5. I tend to think of things and want to get them out immediately otherwise I tend to forget them!

    As for the other point, personally I don’t know that I really feel listened to a lot. Which brings up other points of, “how might I be ineffectively communicating” & “what can I do to change that?”

    <3 this post!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Glad you liked it, Aradia! #5 is definitely a trickster. Takes conscious effort, but it’s SO worthwhile when you realize how great it feels to the person talking :)

  3. Jo

    Love your comment in #5 that the mind is quick enough to have a response ready when someone’s stopped talking! I teach mindfulness and no matter how much we train to be in the present moment there’s always a little temptation to distraction :-) So trusting that the mind is going to be quick enough to come up with ‘whatever’s next’ is a really great way to help minimise that distracting anxiety. Thank you!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Oh, mindfulness – so simple in theory but so stinking HARD in practice! Would love to hear more about your tips ‘n’ tricks :)

  4. Marinda

    Listen to learn! Love that, thanks for sharing Nikki.

  5. Gina Bell

    I love all of these tips! All are so important but for me, #5 is a big one. Stephen R. Covey said ‘Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’ So true.

    I listened to a replay of an interview I was invited to and realized that even though I teach and preach about these very principles I’m not walking the talk. Thankfully I didn’t do a lot of interrupting but I was obviously (at least to me) listening to reply and in doing so, my responses were not as on point or thoughtful as they could have been.

    P.S. Loved your opening remarks about people who want to communicate better obviously care about the people they want to communicate better with (total paraphrase here lol)… I couldn’t agree more.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Haha YES, Gina. And great point(s) about interviews – they’re like documented “how well are you actually listening” tests!

  6. Kausar

    I love love LOVE this, Nikki! As a communication student myself, I really appreciate this. You just reviewed the basics for me haha :D <3
    Reminders always benefit!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Loved making it for that same reason, Kausar! I geek out over metacommunication ;)

  7. Lauren Caselli

    So many good feelings with this one. Listen to learn is TOUGH for me because I definitely put on my “counselor” hat and try to guide people to the answer that I think is right. Listen to learn, Lauren, listen to learn!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Me too, Lauren! And that’s the thing – the best counselors are the best listeners…not the ones who try to stomp all over with advice and direction.

      Fun fact: While we all shift along the spectrum depending on the context (and the mood!), men *tend* to listen to fix and solve problems, and women *tend* to just want someone to listen to understand. It’s about report vs. rapport.

      Knowing that can be really helpful so you can prep your listener for success based on what you need most ;) (i.e. “I know you’ll want to fix this, but I really just need you to listen. Giant ear mode. Mahalo.”)

      I love this stuff!

  8. Anabel Newton

    Beautiful post Nikki – so clearly outlined (of course!). These are awesome conflict resolution (and more importantly prevention!) tips that are essential for healthy, happy thriving relationships. I love them all and I use them all in my own relationship and with couples I work with but 6 is absolutely my favourite – its essential to always check we’ve understood as intended. When someone is really listening to me I feel affirmed, loved and heard. Again – awesome post!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Anabel! That feeling of affirmation is lights a spark in everyone – from teeny tots all the way up :)

  9. Michelle

    Love this and I love it when people make eye contact while I’m talking and then ask me questions when I’m done! Really shows they’ve heard me :)

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