How do I learn to listen?

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    Ami May

    Hey guys! This is my first entry and I´m not a native speaker, but I still hope, you will understand my post. My problem is that I talk to much. It might sound weird, but especially in the last weeks it has become a huge problem for me. I remember, when I was the age of six I got my report card (what students get at the end of the schoolyear). it said, that I was talking in a artificially high voice and that it indicates, that I´m not listened to in my family. Well, that was true in way. My stepdad never knew how to handle children. He used to forbid me to talk and was not willing to understand that children cannot stay quiet for a longer time period. So I think, that when I was at school, I was the loudest to make sure that others would listen and notice me. And that haunts me still, until this day. Especially, when my selfesteem is low I want to make sure, that I am not forgotten by others (that does not happen consciously, i rather analize my behaviour afterwards). In January I got rejected by a guy I was about to fall in love with. Since then I have come to realize that I try to be the center of every conversation. Afterwards I do regret it and beat my self up for not listening to what the others have to say and about sharing information about insignificant things with them. It becomes a really huge problem for me. I am so scared to lose my friends over it. But during a conversation I kind of seem to forget about what I resolved to do: Listen more and talk less.
    Do you have any practical tipps for me? Not only for conversations, but how I could get rid of the feeling of not being noticed enough? Thank you:)


    I give you credit for being aware of something you want to change, and realizing the motivations for your behavior. I think that is always the first and most elusive step, because we cannot change what we are not aware of. Actually changing is a different monster altogether. Making permanent changes is often a result of repetitive effort and practice, and making changes in behavior is especially difficult because it’s not like performing a task where we immediately see a result and get positive reinforcement. What I try to do is, after I’ve beaten myself up over something, I mentally tell myself “stop”, and try to objectively look at the problem. If I can do that, then maybe next time instead of beating myself up, I tell myself “stop” sooner, and can try to immediately change my behavior. I also want to say that talking a lot isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be looked at as a neutral thing, and you can listen more and talk the same amount too. I have found that asking others questions and rephrasing what they say so I know I understand lets them know I care about what they are saying, and for the rest I just try to be myself (which can be hard too). Best wishes on your journey of change 🙂


    Hi Ami,

    As Hami said, kudos to you for recognizing this and wanting to work on it. We all have our strengths and weaknesses but only few of us are willing to be vulnerable enough to admit to and try to work on our weaknesses. You’ve already won half the battle!

    I’m a psychiatrist and so I have trained on how to truly listen and be empathic as its essential to my work. I’ve written a post abut this which I think you might find helpful.


    What helps me is to challenge myself to see if I can come away from a conversation feeling like I have GIVEN something to the other person. That intention helps me stay empathic.

    Sending you warm thoughts,


    Hi Amy,

    I am not a native speaker either, but from Germany. Here we have a saying “Einsicht ist der erste Schritt zur Besserung” – which means that if you understand and face your weakness, this is the first step to change. To my mind it is half of the process and your success is merely a matter of time, once you faced your problem.

    I do understand your problem, because I have a friend who does exactly the same thing. This makes it hard to hang out with her and some of our friends have stopped to invite her to parties because she would “ruin” the whole atmosphere with her dominant conversational habits. Another problem of hers is that she would become louder every time someone joins in to the conversation and she “wasn’t through with her topic”. She wouldn’t even stop when people are obviously annoyed. It is pretty bad because she is a very interesting person at the same time. I think, the best way to overcome your problem is to train new skills.

    1. Maybe make a list of alternative behavious, for example, if you want to talk about something (your job for example or more specific your realtionship to your boss) – ask the other person about the same thing and commit to listen and not talking about yourself until asked.
    2. Second, train to keep stories short. Train to tell stories in 5 sentences and really cut to the essential.
    3. As soon as you notice you are boring someone or losing someones attention, just say “sorry, I am tiring you.” /or: “Sorry, I am getting carried away, I am working on that one” – this can make it easier for people to accept your weakness and gives them the feeling that you will change. Also they are more likely to give you feedback in situations when you lose track.
    8. accept silences. When there is a silence, wait for the other person to pick a topic.
    4. ask a good friend to remind you every time, you talk too much, e.g. by touching your shoulder. This can be painful, (because she touches your shoulder all the time;D ) but might be very effective and trains your awareness quickly.
    5. create reminders. For example, go out and buy yourself a really nice piece of jewelry. That can be a ring, necklace or a braclett, just try to get something you would wear every day. This piece will be a thankyou to yourself for realizing your problem and commiting to change – to treat yourself well. Secondly it is a reminder. Try to find a symbol for silence and listening when picking out the jewelry. Whenever you are in a social situation where your problem might occur, touch this symbol. It will calm you.
    You can also hang up visual reminders in your home/car, etc. Cards or pictures with nice sayings around the theme of listening/silence. This can also be very effective!
    6. Breathe 3 times when you think, you are nervous or make it a habit to go to the toilet every once in a while. For example, set your mobile phone for a certain time, only to go to the toilet and remind yourself that there is no need to be anxious and that you will commit to listening again.
    7. Be your best friend. Imagine you are the best friend of Amy and she tells you about her problem, what would you say to cheer her up? Hey, you did a good job, no one is perfect in a day, hey, you tried. I am proud, you don’t give up – and so on. Try to start talking to yourself like that. This can also be very effective.

    Maybe there is something in this list that can help you. Good luck and best wishes from Germany. Clementine


    Hello, Ami,

    Listening well takes presence of mind. One way in which I’ve become a more mindful listener is to allow silence to fill the space. So much of the time, people dread that awkward silence and just fill it with whatever pops into their minds and out of their mouths. I’ve learned to let the silence be, to open up the conversation and allow thoughts to form and flow freely. Allowing silence becomes quite comforting.

    I also listen much like I meditate. When the thoughts (monkey chatter) bubble up and into my mind, I let them float away. I simply focus on being present with the other person and listening to what the other person is saying, instead of formulating what I’ll say next. I just focus and listen, and then I wait. Wait time is extremely important. It gives the speaker time to complete her thoughts.

    Mindful listening is simply being present with kindness and non-judgement. When my mind wanders, I gently bring it back to listening.


    Sumitha Bhandarkar

    Hi Ami,

    Here is a simple trick that works for me. Try it.

    1. Don’t try to talk less, listen more.
    2. Instead, just make a rule to count mentally up to 10 (or even 5) before you jump into a conversation. If someone else has already started talking before you finish counting, you wait until they finish talking and then start counting again.

    That’s it!

    The two reasons it works is –
    1. When you try NOT to do something, you will always do it (there is a psychology experiment called the white bear experiment by Wegner that proves this — check it on google)
    2. You get busy in the game of counting and trying to find your turn instead of feeling guilty and anxious about your talking habit, which relieves your “need” to talk in the first place.

    Try it. It works 🙂


    I appreciate these ideas on how to practice good listening, Sumitha. Thank you.

    Ami May

    hey guys=) thanks a alot! i already got the feeling that i have improved my listening skills. I have tried to avoid unnecessary comments and to accept silences during conversations.

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