Step-by-step guide to being a good listener

Ninety-year-old Peter Leith bemoans the lost art of being a good listener.

Step-by-step guide to being a good listener

Sunday regular Peter Leith says he is “half blind and half deaf”, but that has only added to his insights. In a continuation of his Aspects of Ageing series, the 90-year-old bemoans the lost art of being a good listener.


These days, conversation itself is a dying art. These days, the focus, at all communication levels, is on “speaking as many words as you can as loud as you can as fast as you can”.

 Knowing how to be a good listener is dying through attrition.

Here are a few suggestions as to how you can improve your performance. Perhaps pass them on to children and grandchildren.

  • Look each speaker in the face. If you tire of watching their eyes, switch to their nose or mouth but keep on looking at them.
  • Raise one (or more) eyebrows from time to time to show that you are surprised, interested and still listening to what they are saying.
  • If you enjoy competition and want to risk trying to get a word in, utter, “Really?” and combine it with a rising inflection in your voice and one, or more, raised eyebrows.
  • If or when you get tired of the conversation, you can always fall back on the ever-reliable all-purpose nod. It fits all situations.
  • On leaving, be sure to thank the speaker for the ‘interesting conversation’.

I find it easy to follow this routine because I am deaf. You may find it more difficult.

Do you believe the art of conversation is dying? Have smartphones and other devices changed conversations irrevocably? Are you a good listener?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    17th Sep 2020
    Good listening requires more than just a "really and a nod. It requires that we ask the odd clarifying question to show the speaker we are really interested in what they have to say.
    Our body language helps too. If we lean towards the speaker, that conveys interest.
    So many of us don't really listen. As soon as we are reminded of an event in our own experience we can only think of what WE want to say and we stop listening.
    This is evident to the speaker and they are discouraged.
    Have you ever been saying something to someone who has appeared to be interested only to have them turn away to greet somebody else and never to turn back and ask you to finish what you were saying. It's utterly deflating!

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