Deep listening has become a lost art in this fast paced and distracted world we live in.
And that’s why those who are able to practice it are a joy to be with—they make you feel seen and heard!
If you want to improve your deep listening skills, follow these 8 habits of people who truly hear others.
1) They get rid of distractions
It doesn’t matter if it’s just small talk or if it’s a big, rousing speech. Someone who knows how to listen deeply will try to give the listener their undivided attention.
You’ll never see them scrolling Instagram or TIktok while they’re having dinner with someone.
You’ll never see them responding to emails or answering calls in the middle of a coffee date.
They will put away all distractions—even work distractions—when they’ve committed to spend time with someone, especially if the person has told them they need a listening ear.
They are like this because they simply consider it rude to not be fully present when they should be giving someone undivided attention.
2) They suspend judgment
People with good listening skills know better than to pass judgment on people and then let assumptions rule the way they handle conversations.
Instead, they try to clear their minds and try to empathize.
Let’s say that a good friend walks up to them, crying, and tells them that she’s been cheating on her husband for a year now and that she doesn’t know what to do.
They’re going to stop themselves from going “oh you deserve whatever punishment you’re getting for being a cheater” or “Geez, how can they cheat that long?!”
Instead, they would try to listen, understand, and offer compassion. Who knows—maybe she’s always wanted to leave the relationship, but she’s just being threatened and blackmailed by her husband.
3) They don’t try to impress others with their wit
Sometimes, we want to seem especially clever, funny, or interesting.
Surely someone who gets people’s attention for being all these things is a good conversationalist, right?
Well, not necessarily. Way too many people get so focused on being “witty” that they end up forgetting to actually listen to whoever’s talking. And you know what, people can sense this.
Being decently interesting might be a good thing, but you know what’s better?
Being “normal” but attentive. It’s still better to be a bit boring and unassuming so long as you’re paying attention to what people are saying.
This is why people who know how to listen deeply simply don’t try to impress. Sure, people might find them boring, but on the other hand, at least they know how to listen and make people feel valued.
When someone’s talking, they aren’t busy trying to think of jokes or witty comebacks—they’re busy listening.
4) They don’t try to impress others with their wisdom
Who doesn’t want to be respected? All of us do, on some level.
But sometimes we just end up overestimating ourselves in our attempt to be seen as smart and full of wisdom. Sometimes, we sound like we’re some kind of “guru” who can save humanity from their sadness.
So when someone comes to share their problems, instead of stopping to think if they’re actually asking for advice, we would rack our brains for advice we can share anyways.
But how are we to say that what we’re saying is what they actually need?
People who have deep listening skills are well aware of this, so they don’t make it their mission to transform others through their words.
Instead, they just offer a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on. They don’t give advice unless asked and even then, only when they know they know what they’re saying.
They are aware that they’re not the smartest person in this world, and that the people around them aren’t exactly dumb and ignorant.
5) They practice meditation
Meditation does a lot to help with deep listening.
Not only does it help you learn and master patience and attention, it will also help calm your mind and make it easier for you to focus.
All of these are important during times when you would have deadlines to beat, or when your conversation partner is so boring your mind begins to tap out.
That meditation helps you from getting lost in your own mind is well-known and even discussed by medical professionals.
Don’t think that meditation alone can solve all of your problems, of course. But it goes a long way to making them a lot more manageable—and sometimes things being manageable is all you need.
6) They pay attention to their body language
Communication isn’t just about the words that leave our mouths. It’s also about what we’re saying with our bodies.
People who listen deeply are aware of this and, for that reason, they pay close attention to what people are saying with their bodies.
Someone can say “yeah, carry on, tell me more about it” but clearly not mean it because their eyes are wandering, looking for something more interesting.
Maybe someone can say “Oh, I’m completely fine” but betray their nervousness in the way their hands are trembling.
Or maybe someone might try to talk as if they’re bored, but are clearly showing interest by mirroring their actions.
There’s a lot that one can say without uttering a single word, and that’s why understanding body language is key to actually listening.
And if they want to make the other person feel like they’re truly listening, they’ll express it through body language, too. They’d nod their heads when they agree on something, they’d rub their chin to indicate they’re thinking, and so on.
7) They ask questions
One of the big reasons why some people know how to listen deeply is because of the way they approach conversations.
Instead of approaching it like “what should i tell them about myself?”, they instead try to approach conversations asking themselves “What can I learn from the people I’m talking to?” and “What interesting things can they share with me?”
Good listeners teach themselves to be genuinely curious about others. And that’s why they ask questions.
Most of the people who are good at deep listening are already naturally curious, so it doesn’t take them much effort to get into this mindset.
One good thing is that asking questions serves as an invitation to the other person to share more about themselves…making the conversation deeper, and possibly more personal.
8) They only commit when they can
Having a really deep conversation with people takes a lot of energy.
You need to be able to sit down and not think of something else for at least an hour or even three—and some people simply don’t have the time and headspace for this.
I mean, when done right, you simply can’t do this every single day!
So when they know someone wants to talk to them about something important, then they set the right time and place for it. They make sure that they don’t just consider the other person’s needs, but their capacity to give as well.
After all, you cannot be a good listener if you’re rushing deadlines, and if you’re currently not in a good mental and emotional space.
So they set a time that works for them. And they even say no sometimes, too.
This way, when they commit to having a talk with someone, they’re sure they’ll be able to be a good listener.
Deep listening is not like swimming or biking. It’s not one skill you can just try to learn and then you’ll just somehow get it. Try to learn it on its own, and you’ll fail.
If you want to learn how to listen deeply, truly, and actually understand people, you should strive to build focus, humility, patience, and then change the way you see conversations.
This might seem daunting, especially since internalizing all of these is not something you can just learn overnight. But it’s well worth it, and once the pieces fall into place you’ll see that you stand to earn more than just being a deep listener.