Woman, listening, with her hand raised to her ear, reacting with facial expressionsHow to show you are listening

You can show you are a good listener by the way you respond during a conversation. The trick is to know what to say, how to say it – and when to say it.

The following is all quite natural, of course - but a check list of how to be a good listener would include:

  • make natural eye contact with the other speaker
  • use body language including facial expressions and nods to show you are following what is being said
  • allow your interlocutor, the person who is speaking, to finish before you take your turn to speak
  • ask helpful questions and, if some of what has been said is complex and important you could clarify what has been said by summarising their point using different words to what you have heard
  • when your conversational “turn” arrives, consider referring back to comments that have already been made and build on them

Analysing conversations

If you are asked to analyse a conversation, refer to the people speaking as 'interlocutors' and know that each time someone speaks, they are taking a 'turn'.


Read this conversation between Abdul, Emily and Matt. Can you find any examples of good listening skills?

Abdul: In a fight, right, who do you think would win...

Emily: (Interrupts) Shut up, Abdul! I'm trying to read my book...

Abdul: Batman or Spider-man?

Emily: That's just stupid, grow up!

Abdul: It's not!

Emily: It is!

Matt: I reckon Spider-man.

Abdul: No way, man! Spider-man's a loser!

Emily: You're a loser!

Matt: No. I reckon Spider-man...

Abdul: Loser!

Matt: So why d'you reckon Batman?

Abdul: Batman would use gadgets and outsmart Spider-man.

Matt: So, you're saying that gadgets are better than superpowers?

Abdul: Depends on the superpower, but Batman would beat Spider-man.

Matt: Because he'd stop him using his superpowers?

Abdul: Yeah, Batman would stop Spider-man shooting webs somehow.

Matt: We's better be quiet. We're annoying her.

Emily: Shut up!

Choose the statement that is most true:

  1. Emily is the best listener, because she says the least and she's just trying to get on with her work.
  2. Abdul doesn't listen to anyone.
  3. Matt shows that he is listening becuase he asks questions to make sure that he understands what Abdul really means. He is also sensitive towards Emily's feelings.
  4. None of them are good listeners and anyway, they shouldn't be chatting in class.

The correct answer is 3. Matt asks lots of questions to make sure he's clear what Abdul means. He's also sensitive towards Emily's feelings.