How to Listen

“A conversation is the process of alternating outflowing and inflowing communication.”

“There is a basic rule here:



“When we find this rule overbalanced, in either direction, we discover difficulty.

“A person who is only outflowing communication is actually not communicating at all, in the fullest sense of the word. For in order to communicate entirely, he would have to inflow as well as outflow. A person who is inflowing communication entirely is, again, out of order. For if he would inflow he must then outflow.” — L. Ron Hubbard

Carefully listening is a skill many people never learn. They find it difficult to listen. Yet if you never master this important communication skill, people do not like to talk to you.

You fail to skillfully inflow communication if you have one or more of these bad habits.

Ten Bad Listening Habits

1. Appearing to listen. You nod, you smile, you agree with everything people say. But you don’t hear a word. But the game is over when you ask a question about something the person already answered.

2. Resistance. You find ways to change the subject, distract the speaker or forbid discussion of a topic. Resistance simply puts off an inevitable confrontation.

3. Selective hearing. Tuning out or filtering out what you don’t want to hear. It takes a lot of practice to filter out certain topics, but some people do it well. For example, a boss gives an order and a suggestion. The employee hears the order but tunes out the suggestion. The employee describes a productivity problem and hints about a raise. The boss focuses on the production problem and never hears the hint.

4. Calculating while listening. Forming an answer. Working out a response. Thinking of ways to escape. You are less interested in what the person has to say than in what you will be saying or doing next.

5. Cutting in. You listen to some of the data, jump to a conclusion and cut the person off. Or maybe you interrupt with a question or abruptly change the subject. If you do this, you not only upset people, you often reach the wrong conclusion. When you cut people off, they feel you do not give a darn about them.

6. Spacing out. Day dreaming, drifting off, thinking of something else. Because you can listen twice as fast as people can speak, you get bored. You make the person feel unimportant.

7. Interpreting everything. You can’t take information at face value so you look for hidden meanings.”So when you say that you won’t help me, are you really saying you don’t like me?” “Because you won’t buy from me, does that mean you think I’m a crook?” “Are you actually angry but just being polite?”

8. Listening with an attitude. Instead of simply listening, you feel pressed for time or angry or unhappy. Maybe you do not believe the speaker. Regardless, you send body language. The speaker is distracted and fails to say what he or she wants to say.

9. Equating what people say to something else. Examples: A friend talks about his money problems while you think about your own money problems. Your spouse talks about taking a vacation while you think about asking your boss for time off.

10. Story topping. Cutting people off to tell them your better idea or more interesting experience. For example, someone says, “I met the mayor last night . . .” and you jump in and say, “Did I tell you about the time I met the governor?” It’s hard for you to ever let others be more important, more knowledgeable or more interesting than you.

One Great Listening Habit

“Happiness is power and power is being able to do what one is doing when one is doing it.” — L. Ron Hubbard

If you really want to be a great listener, you sit there and do nothing else except listen. You treat the person’s communication as the most important communication you have ever received.

Say to yourself, “Right now, there is not one thing more important than truly understanding this person.”

Look at the person with no other thought in mind. Make good eye contact. Get completely focused. Do nothing but listen.

The results might astound you!

  • After talking to you, the other person feels better than ever.
  • People seek your advice.
  • You get picked for the best duties.
  • When you have something important to say, people listen.
  • People like you much more.


1. Notice how people listen to each other this week. Find three of the bad listening habits and what happens as a result.

2. For all conversations you have this week, give 100% of your attention to the person. Understand what they say exactly. Notice their reactions.

3. To see the difference, consciously use one or more of the bad habits, instead of carefully listening, and notice how people react.

More ways to boost your communication skills …