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Improving Effective Listening

by Luis J Bechara & Francisco L Perignon

Welcome to another SitePlow Explore: our bitesize actionable articles that explore a specific life skill and how it can help improve a specific area of your wellness.

This SitePlow Explore will help you improve your social wellness. Effective listening is key for relationship development whether is a relationship with an individual, or a group. Therefore, we will explore 5 Habits, that in our opinion, you should avoid, if you want to completely understand what is being communicated to you.

  1. Zone Out

  2. Anticipation

  3. Rehearsing

  4. Interruption

  5. Lack Of Feedback

Zone Out

The first one is a given. We’ve all had those conversations where a certain word or phrase triggers a thought in our heads that turns into a train of thought we can get lost in. But in every case, it’s important to try to be as present as possible when someone is communicating with you. So how can you avoid zoning out? One easy way is to write down those words that describe the idea or thought in your mind. This way you can finish the conversation and still be present, while having the chance to come back to that idea. This makes sure communication stays fluid, and allows your idea to be discussed later on.

Note: If you are not a fast writer you might want to ask the person communicating for a second, and quickly say the words please continue.

person zoning out
person zoning out


Often the person you're communicating with is someone you know very well. Something they say might sound familiar, making you think you know what they’re about to say. You may be right, after all, you know this person. But the most likely answer is you’re wrong, there are many reasons for this, maybe you and this person just had an argument that is fresh in your mind, and anything vaguely referencing that can cause your mind to go there. Most likely, they just want to let you know something interesting, and you might miss out on this conversation by letting yourself anticipate. This happens to all of us, but there are ways to avoid it, and make the most of conversations. The best way is by maintaining a blank slate during the conversation, and only taking context into account when it’s clear it’s a part of the conversation. Like in any conversation, always try to be in the moment.

person anticipating
person anticipating


This one goes out to the introverts and the overthinkers. But, honestly, we’ve all done this. During important or stressful conversations, we tend to rehearse what we’re going to say next, instead of listening to what we’re being told. Think of this as Anticipation and Zoning Out combined. This can lead to you not being able to understand what the other person is trying to communicate, especially during arguments where you’re just wanting to get your point across. Like before, it’s important to be in the moment and keep a blank slate. This will help you actually listen to the other person. And if there’s something you absolutely need to say and are afraid you might forget, make a note of it and write it down.

people with hands raised
people with hands raised


Sometimes time is a factor, and you might want the other person to get straight to the point. After all, you’re pressed for time and need to move on. This isn’t the way to go in most cases, by telling the other person things like: "And your point is...", "How does it affect our project", "And..." You might be missing crucial information that provides context or background to the discussion and may prove to be vital information in the future. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should talk forever and never get to the point, but if time isn’t a constraint, it is important to let the conversation flow as naturally as possible, and avoid interruptions. Also, keep in mind that for you to interrupt means you Anticipated and Zoned Out while Rehearsing to make the person get to the point.

person rushed
person rushed

Lack of Non-Verbal Feedback

Fake it till you make it. A good technique to listen effectively is to "play" the role of an effective listener, it may not sound intuitive, but nodding your head, smiling, and using filler words like “hmm”, “yes”, “go on”, and so on, can help you stay engaged and be a more active listener. Since most people can't multitask, "playing" the role of the active listener might just do the trick to avoid all previously mentioned barriers of effective listening.

person offering non-verbal feedback
person offering non-verbal feedback


There are multiple ways to improve your listening skills, and if you are interested in exploring the topic furthermore you might find it useful to check out more Communication Studies books, videos, podcasts, and articles.

In the meantime, a cool way to make what you just learned actionable would be to set yourself the following goal for this week:

"I will call 3 friends by the end of this week, with no assumptions, a notepad in hand, and employing constant non-verbal feedback"

Feel free to customize the goal as much as you want to, and please let us know whether or not you found it helpful in our comment section down below.

Have an amazing week, and keep SitePlowing!

- Luis, Francisco and The SitePlow Team

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