How to Become an Excellent Listener

1. Make direct eye-contact with the person talking. Someone once wisely said, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” Often subtle attitudes and emotions are revealed through a person’s eyes. Eye-contact lets the person talking know that they have their listener’s full attention.

2. Eliminate distractions. To practice excellent listening skills, hold or reschedule telephone calls when meeting with someone in an office. Lay down any papers or written materials. When meeting in a public place, try to find a place of relative silence.

3. Make sure you understand what is said. An excellent listener never hesitates to ask for clarification. It can be a helpful practice to ask, “Do you mean…” then rephrase what you believe you heard the other person say. It is surprising how often what you thought you heard was not exactly what the other person was intending to convey. This tip also helps make sure understanding is accompanying their listening. 

4. Resist the temptation to be a clock-watcher. Whenever a listener looks at their watch while someone is speaking to them,  it sends a loud and clear signal to the person talking that the listener wants to move on to some other person or task. 

5. Don’t shoot the messenger. When someone delivers bad news, it can be a very natural reaction to react defensively or negatively toward the messenger. But all this will do is abruptly cut off communication, which can turn out to be the worst thing that can happen in that circumstance. Former Los Angeles police officer Bob Vernon used to combat this by keeping a prominently displayed framed print in his office that read, “Bad news welcome here.” 

Some Things Don’t Change by Bob Vernon, Pointman Leadership Institute)  

adapted by Gary D. Foster
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Gary D. Foster founded and leads Gary D. Foster Consulting, a marketing and management service specializing in helping religious product companies and ministries discover and optimize new revenue streams and to better leverage existing ones. He served as an executive with Focus on the Family, where he managed their award-winning book publishing operation and $110 million direct-mail fundraising division. He also spent 12 years with the Christian Booksellers Association, where he served as President and CEO of CBA Service Corporation. He also served in executive product development and marketing positions with Cook Communications Ministries, Moody Press and Moody Magazine. Learn more about Gary at