What are the characteristics of a good listener?

Dr. Michelle Cleere - Sharecare Fitness Expert, PhD
Dr. Michelle Cleere - Sharecare Fitness Expert, PhD
Listening is more than having good communication skills. It is about having an attitude, or general spirit, of honoring and seeking another person's perspective and a genuine interest in getting to know them.

How we talk to people makes a big difference. Traditionally we focus on content the what of communication. Typically we pay very little attention to how we say things. Yet how we communicate with others is as important, if not more so, as what we are trying to say. How we communicate affects how people feel, and this affects the choices they make.

Listening in communication is not about convincing someone to do something or providing the right information. It suggests that we seek to be respectful, that we care for people, and that we desire to form partnerships or collaborative relationships with them. Instead of having the goal be to communicate information, our goal should be to build a relationships. This requires an attitude of honoring each person's perspective and a genuine interest in getting to know people. 

Fortunately, fairly simple communication strategies can be effective in helping people feel supported, understood, and comfortable in forming a relationship with you. These same simple communication strategies also minimize disagreements which that make the relationship with your client uncomfortable. By maximizing support and minimizing disagreements, we will help get people connected and that connection is what leads to adherence to an exercise program.

To get to this place there are two initial key skills:
  • Ask open ended questions which allows people to talk.
  • Reflect the other person's response to get clarification on what you are hearing and what they are saying. When reflecting it's important to not add your thoughts, feelings or advice but to paraphrase what the other person has said and stick with the direction they need or want to go. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.