Hey! Are you listening? Good.
Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll occasionally find it hard to gauge your audience.
Do they actually care what you’re saying? Or are they more concerned with the latest football score or what they’re having for dinner tonight?
Hint: If they’re checking their phone or staring into space, chances are their mind is elsewhere.
Don’t be one of these people!
It’s not only blatantly disrespectful but can seriously harm both professional and personal relationships over time.
Instead, be an active listener.
Not many people know this.
But being an effective listener is actually a skill in itself. Not to mention, making the speaker feel heard and putting them at ease has enormous benefits.
It’s pretty much a win-win. Communication will be smoother, you’ll build stronger bonds with people, and gain the respect of your peers.
So what’s the secret?
Start by using these nine phrases that show you’re truly listening.
1) “You have my full attention”
This is a great one to kick off with.
Whether a work colleague has popped into your office to ask if you have time to hear the latest projections or your partner wants to broach a serious subject, saying this does a couple of things.
It lets them know that you’re ready to start (you’ve activated listening mode).
But it also reassures them. You have the time, they don’t need to rush, and the spotlight is now on them.
It’s a simple but effective statement that means exactly what it says. No clever psychology here, just a great prompt to open a line of communication.
2) “You’re spot on with that”
This is an example of an agreement statement.
And by agreeing with the speaker, you show that you have an opinion on what they’re saying (i.e. you’re actually listening!)
Some alternative agreement phrases include “exactly”, “right”, or simply “I strongly agree with that.”
Attentive listeners use them all the time, and you should too!
You can drop them in mid-sentence (if you keep it short and don’t interrupt the speaker) or after they make a valid point. Couple it with some enthusiastic nodding to further emphasize you’re on the same page.
Alternatively (because you might not always agree) you can use…
3) “I disagree, but go on…”
Stating that you disagree also shows that you’re listening (for the same reasons as above).
In fact, challenging the speaker is an even stronger indication that you’re all ears. It shows that you’re passionate about what they’re saying (but just have an alternative view – which is fine).
Notice the second part of this phrase – “but go on…”
This is important because you don’t want to interrupt their train of thought. You’ve stated that you feel differently, but still want to hear the rest of what they have to say.
Leaving this out and simply saying “I disagree” is not something active listeners use.
It may actually result in an awkward silence.
Your blunt interruption suggests that you’ve heard enough.
They’ll probably expect you to follow up on your argument (and stop listening to them).
4) “So, you’re saying…”
Repeating someone’s point back to them is a great way to show you’re paying attention to every single word.
It also cements the information in your own mind and gives them the opportunity to correct any misinterpretations.
But be careful!
This is such a powerful way to prove you’re listening, it can be used to twist and manipulate what was actually said.
It’s a common technique used by journalists looking to push a narrative or get a scoop.
A famous example is when Cathy Newman interviewed Jordan Peterson for Channel 4 News.
Cathy used this phrase over 30 times during the debate!
This next one expresses enthusiasm, which is also a great way to show that you’re listening.
Other examples in this group include exclamations like “wow!”, and adjectives like “fantastic!” or “incredible!”
These phrases usually come naturally after something exciting or shocking has been said. They help convey to the speaker that you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying.
6) “How did that make you feel?”
Attentive people love open-ended questions.
If you frame the question within the context of what is being said, even better!
Timing is also important.
Let me explain.
Although open-ended questions demonstrate that you’re actively listening, they also interrupt. So, it’s important to only use them if the speaker has paused.
Better yet, if they’re struggling to maintain their flow, you can throw in an open-ended question to actually help them regain their train of thought.
Other examples include “Tell me more about that” or “Can you go into more depth on…?”
7) “That must have been difficult”
Empathetic phrases can take the conversation to a whole new level.
After all, we humans are emotional creatures.
Don’t get me wrong, eye contact, positive body language, and simple phrases like “yes” and “go on” certainly show you’re listening.
But if you can take the conversation into deeper waters (emotion and feeling), you’ll always create a stronger bond between yourself (the listener) and them (the speaker).
Active listeners understand this.
They use phrases like “I know how you feel” and “You have every right to feel that way” to cement relationships and form lasting connections.
8) “You’re so brave”
Let’s be honest, we all love hearing compliments.
And throwing in some well-timed kind words when someone is speaking not only shows you’re listening but also makes the speaker feel good about themselves.
Compliments act like a social reward and trigger the release of dopamine.
They can also increase motivation, relieve stress, and actually make them feel more comfortable around you.
9) “Was there anything else?”
Finally, you can use a wrap-up phrase to double-check they’re done speaking.
It shows that you still have time to listen if there’s anything else they want to add and gives them the opportunity to continue if they wish.
You’re basically putting them at ease and giving them free rein to keep going (if they wish).