Listening Skills

I did this family home evening a year ago with my brother’s family, but I wanted to post what I did because it turned out so well.

I asked my brother to tell a story about something he did in elementary school.  As he began, I started throwing balls at other people and laughing and talking with them.  I purposefully made it really hard for anyone to listen to my brother.  I was also constantly walking in front of him.  My dear husband was really trying to pay attention and kept asking him questions, but I was pretty good at making sure no one really heard the story very well.

After he was done, I asked my brother’s wife to tell a story she remembered about elementary school.  This time I sat down close to her, kept eye contact, nodded my head, and asked questions.  After she was done, we had a group discussion about my listening skills.  I asked my brother how it made him feel when I wasn’t listening to him.  He said it made him feel like he wasn’t very important to me.  I asked his wife how it made her feel that I was listening.  She said the exact opposite: that she felt that I loved her and was important to her.  We show people we love them by listening to them.  If we’re not really paying attention to what they’re saying it’s like telling them, “You don’t matter very much to me.”  I asked what the traits of a great listener are.  We had a good discussion about that (stopping what you’re doing and looking at the person, not interrupting, etc).

I told my three nieces, who are all very shy, that I was super shy growing up.  I was scared to death to talk to people I didn’t know.  I finally learned one of the greatest friendshipping skills of my life and it saved me socially: I didn’t have to be the one talking all the time.  I could make friends by being a great listener.  I never knew what to say to someone anyway so I started using a different tactic.  I would introduce myself and then ask them questions about themselves and then show them I was genuinely interested in their answers.  I made some great friends this way and I found that it was much easier to listen to them talk than come up with things to talk about.

The last activity we did was reading some quotes.  I gave each person one or two quotes.  I had them read their quote and tell me something they liked about it.  The quotes are listed at the bottom of this post.

One other thing that I have done that has worked REALLY well with my son is teaching him how to interrupt me politely.  If I am talking to someone (in person or on the phone) and he comes up to me and says, “Mom…”, I hold up my index finger.  He knows that as long as my index finger is up, he needs to patiently wait and not say anything else.  I try to never make him wait very long.  I get to a point where I can stop in my conversation, smile at my son, thank him sincerely for waiting, and ask what he wants.  We practiced this during family home evening and it took a couple of weeks after that for him to remember to wait, but he got it and it has saved both of us a lot of frustration.  This way, he is not getting angry as I continue talking.  Before I did this, he would say, “Mom, mom, MOM, MOM!!!” Pretty soon, he was yelling and angry and it took a while to calm him down.  It has also taught him (hopefully) that mommy’s conversations are important as well and that she needs to show other people she loves them by listening to them.


“I really know you love me because whenever I want to talk to you about something you stop whatever you are doing and listen to me.”

“Many people fail to make a favorable impression because they have been so much concerned with what they are going to say next that they do not keep their ears open.”

“Effective listeners remember that “words have no meaning – people have meaning.”

“One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider a problem, can change our whole outlook on the world.”

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”

“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.”

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.” ( Deborah Tannen Author and Professor of Linguistics Georgetown University)

“Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable—and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.”

“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.”

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

“There’s a big difference between showing interest and really taking interest. Many ‘active listening’ seminars are, in actuality, little more than a shallow theatrical exercise in appearing like you’re paying attention to another person. The requirements: Lean forward, make eye contact, nod, grunt, or murmur to demonstrate you’re awake and paying attention, and paraphrase something back every 30 seconds or so. As one executive I know wryly observed, many inhabitants of the local zoo could be trained to go through these motions, minus the paraphrasing.”

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.“

“Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening … when you’d have preferred to talk.”

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought &attended to my answer.”

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.”

“Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world.”


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