“Being a good listener is one of the most important and enchanting life skills anyone can have, yet few of us know how to do it. Not because we are evil, but because no one has taught us how.” — Alain de Botton 

When I first read about active listening, it helped me shift from trying to be interesting to being interested in conversation. As the concept resurfaced this month, for our theme of Kinship, I wanted to share the four key steps:

Give your full attention.

Orient your body and complete focus towards the speaker. This step might be obvious, and because of that, it is the easiest to forget. Think about times when you are speaking; you can feel the difference when someone has put away distractions and is truly listening to you.

Don’t speak (until later).

Surprise! A key part of listening, and maybe the hardest part, is simply not speaking. Avoid interrupting the speaker and filling any occasional pockets of silence with your own voice. Do feel free to signal that you are following along with an occasional head nod or “mhhm.”

Share back what they’ve said.

Show that you are listening by summarizing what you’ve heard, beginning with a phrase like “So, what I hear you saying is...” or “It sounds as though you…” This allows the speaker to feel heard, and also confirms your understanding.

Ask open-ended questions.

It’s likely that after listening you’ll have questions. Prioritize open-ended questions that help you get clarity without sending the conversation in a different direction. Psychologist and author Tania Israel suggests this simple and concise method for encouraging dialogue. “Repeat back a key word with an upward intonation. For example, if somebody says, ‘I just feel like the world is so dangerous,’ you can say, ‘Dangerous?’ By using the upward intonation, the word becomes a question. It says, ‘Tell me more about how the world is dangerous.’”


What I really appreciate about these steps is they help me resist the urge to offer suggestions (“You should xyz!”) or pass judgment (“That is xyz!”) without understanding what's really being said. Here is the Active Listening graphic we shared on instagram recently.

If you are interested in learning more about active listening, and other activities that help you connect deeply with others, check out our Kinship Guide.

In celebration of feeling heard,

Mike Radparvar
Co-Founder, Holstee & Reflection.app

P.S. In other news, we are hiring a part-time Marketing Coordinator for Reflection.app. If you know someone who would be a good fit, please direct them to this job description: https://www.reflection.app/marketing-role

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Kinship.

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