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Top Tips On How To Be A Conscious Listener

It takes a lot of hard work ...


Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You're able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others ...

If you want to be a conscious listener, you have to let go of the need to be right!

If you want to be a conscious listener, you have to let go of the need to be right!

copyright: alphaspirit / 123rf

Ralph Marston said that originally, and it leads me to ask how many times have you been in a debate or discussion with someone and all you can think about is what you are going to say to counter their argument and prove your right?

"There is no bigger barrier to listening and understanding than the need to be right!"

Not only does this stop mutual respect and appreciation of others, but the worst case scenario is also that it can destroy relationships. How many families have been split, customers lost and colleagues alienated?

We all see things through different filters based on personality preferences, personal values, beliefs, culture and experiences and we may often come up against people that have very different filters to us, but that doesn't make them wrong and us right, just different.

If we take the time to let go and really stay focused on being curious, it's amazing the difference in the results. Of course, it might not change our viewpoint, but the generosity we have shown to someone else by genuinely hearing them is always appreciated and strengthens relationships.

Here are my tips (and I am most definitely not perfect!) on how to let go and listen:

  • Breathe - I know it sounds simple and yes, it keeps you alive, but it's also a really good way to give yourself space so you are more in the moment to listen.

  • Give yourself permission - Sometimes this is all it takes to allow yourself to be open and to forget being competitive, remind yourself winning is understanding.

  • Ask questions and really listen to the answers - Ask questions that help you understand and have no agenda, follow up on their answers and reflect back your understanding. If you find you're asking questions like "don't you think it would be better if ...", you are slipping back into your agenda; this is a 'closed leading question' and to be avoided.

  • Watch the word 'but' and its softer cousin 'however' - Empathy and expressing understanding is great, however when you follow with a 'but' or a 'however' then the chances are that you didn't really mean it. For example, "I think you have a really valid point, however you might want to ..." or, "I understand how hard that must be for you, but we all have difficult situations ...". The words 'but' and 'however' either undermine what you said immediately before it or highlight that you didn't mean it in the first place.

  • It's all about intent -You are allowed to disagree, of course you are, though be clear you want to be open and understand the other person. Or are you just using that as an excuse to look for ways to counter their argument and have no intention of hearing their side?

  • Have the courage to be wrong - If you do all of the above, you might find yourself with information that gives you a different viewpoint and it takes guts to admit you're wrong. Even if you don't express that outwardly, just admitting it to yourself can be enough.

Finally, a word of caution. This all takes a lot of hard work and you won't always be rewarded with a hug or a thank you for really listening. You may find people are not as generous back. You have to ask what type of person do you want to be and use that as your driver to change behaviour.

Until next time ...


Would you like to know more?

If you'd like to find out more about becoming a conscious listener, do give me a call on 01908 511 062, leave a comment below, or click here to ping over an email and let's see how I can help you.

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About Debra Stevens ...


I'm the founder of DTS, which was established in 1996. A highly successful experiential training company specialising in facilitating behavioural change in all aspects of dealings with people, whether in customer service, sales, management or with colleagues and teammates.

I've managed large contracts such as Pearson Education, Coca Cola, Penguin Books, Accenture, and Santander for over 21 years and have built up excellent relationships with key sponsors of all aspects of the businesses.

I'm a successful trainer, writer and speaker with nearly 30 years' experience of training people at all levels.


01908 511 062