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22 tips for 2022: To listen better, try — you guessed it — not talking

A collage image of people at a small scale putting cutouts of words into an ear that is much larger scale. The page has a pink background with red, white, yellow and black stripes, some with illegible text on them.
Andrea D'Aquino for NPR

Being a good listener can transform your conversations and improve your relationships. It's also extremely hard work.

To become a better listener, there is one super simple, super important, but very hard to actually do tip: Stop talking.

"If you rearrange the letters of the word 'listen,' it spells 'silent,'" says Tania Israel, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of the book Beyond Your Bubble.

When you interrupt a person while they're speaking, even if it's to interject the perfect, evidence-based response, "What it's going to do is communicate that you don't actually care very much about what that person is saying, and it's going to make them not want to share more with you," says Israel.

Instead, approach a conversation from a place of intellectual humility, she suggests. Then, "you're really coming from a place of recognizing that you can still hold your own views and be interested in and respectful of somebody else's."

It can be hard to quiet your mind — and your voice — to take in what another person is saying, especially if you disagree with them. But a little silence can go a long way to a healthy, productive and respectful conversation.

(Quick disclaimer here: The foundation of listening is respect, so don't put up with folks who disrespect your boundaries or speak abusively.)


Here are five tips to help you grow your listening skills.

22 tips for 2022 is edited and curated by Dalia Mortada, Arielle Retting, Janet W. Lee, Beck Harlan, Beth Donovan and Meghan Keane. This tip comes from an episode of Life Kit hosted by Julia Furlan and produced by Andee Tagle.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.