How to be an Active Listener: 4 Simple Tips for Better Relationships

Active listening is a critical skill for successful human interaction. Whether at home with family, in the office meeting with colleagues, or on a first date, active listening demonstrates respect and allows others to feel understood. Read on to learn how to be an active listener and improve your relationships as a result.

Show empathy

Empathy is not sympathy; it is the ability to understand another person’s feelings and perspective. As an active listener, use phrases like, “I can see how that would be frustrating” or “I understand why you would feel that way.” Avoid sympathy like “I’m sorry you’re frustrated” as that phrase does not show you’ve heard the other person, but rather, you’re sorry for their feelings.

Confirm understanding

The most common is summarizing back what you’ve heard, but there are ways to do so without sounding like a robot. 

– Paraphrase: This shows you’ve heard what was said and not just the words they used. 

– Clarify: If you are unsure of what was just said, clarify the statement so you can understand it fully. This shows you want to really understand the other person and their ideas. 

– Ask follow-up questions: This shows you’re actively listening and want to fully understand their thoughts.

Ask questions

There are two main types of questions to use as an active listener. 

– Clarifying questions: Examples include “Could you give me an example?” or “How did you come to that conclusion?” 

– Insight questions: Examples include “Why do you think that is?” or “What made you choose that path?”

Body language: Mimic and calibrate

If the other person crosses their arms, you should do the same. If they cross their legs, you should do the same. If they lean forward on the table, you should do the same. If they use their hands to gesture or hold something, try to do the same. Calibrate your body language. 


Listening is an art form. Active listening shows the other person that you’re interested in what they have to say, you value them as a person, and you want to understand them fully. With these tips, you can become a better listener and make others feel heard. Active listening is a two-way street; when others feel heard, it builds trust and can help improve your relationship.

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