Five Key Tips to Become a More Active Listener

Hear What People are Really Saying

Being an active listener ranks highly as a skill valued in any profession. However effective listening skills prove even more useful in a relationship-building job like fundraising. In fact, becoming an empathic listener is one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

A few simple tips can help you retrain yourself into becoming a better listener. Read on to learn the top five habits to help you build active listening skills.

1. Improve Your Eye Contact

One of the best ways to show you are listening with care is with eye contact. Eye contact also helps you focus as the listener and stay present with the other person. Avoiding eye contact can make the other person feel like you are not paying attention or are uneasy within the conversation.

There is a delicate balance when using eye contact to avoid discomfort or intimidation. No one likes to feel like they are being glared at or stared down! It only takes a few seconds of eye contact to feel natural. You can also try looking at someone’s earlobe or eyebrow if direct eye contact is uncomfortable for you at first.

2. Ask Questions

Another great way to improve your listening skills is by asking good questions. Questions show you are not only following the narrative, but you are eager for more context. Asking good questions develops a conversation and deepens the investment both people are having in the discussion.

But how do you know if you are asking a good question? One of the best ways is to wait before asking. If you find your question keeps popping up in your mind and your conversation partner has not answered it as the discussion develops, that is often a good sign.

3. But Don’t Interrupt!

Asking thoughtful questions is important, but be sure to deploy this skill wisely! If you ask too many questions, your conversation partner may feel like they can’t express themselves. Storytelling is a powerful tool, so be sure the person in the discussion can fully express theirs.

Like questions, clarifications are a great active listening tool when used with care. If you are paraphrasing because you want them to know you are listening, it may feel like an interruption. Use a clarifying paraphrase only if you need help understanding what they’re saying and default to letting your conversation partner use their own words.

4. Banish Distractions

Avoid checking your phone, picking your cuticles, or talking to passersby when conducting a conversation with someone else. Every time you allow yourself to indulge in a distraction, you are failing to actively listen to the person in front of you.

While multitasking or switch tasking may feel like the norm, you can prove your devotion to active listening by committing to minimizing as many distractions as you can.

5. Stay in the Moment

The most important (and best!) part about devoting yourself to active listening is the benefits you get from becoming more present in a conversation. Not only do you absorb more of the details from these engaged conversations, you will earn valuable relationship insights.

Many of the tips on this list ultimately refer to staying focused and present on the conversation in order to be an active listener. However other ways you can live in the moment may include:

  • Making discreet notes
  • Observing body language
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Embracing silence and allowing each other space to reflect


Boost your professional (and personal) relationships by retraining your listening skills. Active listeners stay in the moment by making meaningful eye contact, asking thoughtful questions, and avoiding distractions while inside a conversation.

Like any skill, practice makes perfect. The term “empathic listening” implies a willingness to try being vulnerable and intuitive with another person. In time you will learn how to read the verbal and nonverbal cues of your conversation partners to build better relationships.

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