7 Tips To Up Your Listening Game

Jon Tesser
3 min readDec 18, 2021

Listening is a lost art. And this is unfortunate. Anything you desire can be yours if you just shut up and listen. Here are some non-obvious but simple tips to up your listening game.

Realize it’s not about you. At all.

Good listeners remove themselves from the equation entirely and make it all about the other person. In a way, when you’re listening, you cease to exist, and the other person comes alive. So when you’re listening, you don’t matter in the slightest. Your brilliance, your awesomeness, your whatever, none of it matters. All that matters is the person talking and expressing themselves.

Don’t Give Advice Unless You’re Explicitly Asked

Remember what I wrote about this not being about you? Well, the same goes for giving advice. When someone is talking to you, they’re seeking to be understood. By offering advice, you’re inserting yourself into the equation and saying “what I believe matters and YOU should listen to ME.”

If the person explicitly says “what should I do,” then your response depends on context. If they’re asking for your “expert opinion”, then it’s ok to offer advice and say “based on my past experience, this has worked for me.”

If they’re asking for personal advice on how to handle something that only they know the answer to, then do your best to offer them the advice that they would give themselves. For example, say someone asks “should I break up with my boyfriend?” You can say “well, if I heard you correctly, you gave me these reasons for why you should. I can’t tell you yes or no, but it seems like based on the evidence you presented you want to move on.”

Remember, listening is all about someone else. As soon as you offer any advice, you insert yourself into the equation and you aren’t servicing the person how they need to be serviced.

Be Present

The phone needs to be put down, your concerns for the day need to be put aside, and all other distractions need to disappear. If someone is giving you the gift of revealing something about themselves to you, then you need to give them the respect that is deserved for this gift. If you can’t be present and in the moment with the person while they’re talking, then you should not have the conversation. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and it’s disrespectful.

Choose Compassion and Empathy Over Judgment

The best gift you can give to someone is to make them feel accepted and heard when they’re telling you something. If you judge their experience, then you negate that feeling of acceptance. You may not like what someone is saying, but put aside your personal feelings and choose empathy, which is the active act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand where they’re coming from. Compassion is the art of holding someone else’s pain while wishing them the best. You can’t take away that pain, but you can offer them the space in which to express their own pain.

Realize It’s Not Your Job To Fix Their Problem

Good listening requires you to be in the uncomfortable position of not being a fixer. The only person that can fix their problem is the person with the problem. This should be a relief to you! Without needing to fix anything, you can just be present, provide empathy, and give compassion.

Seek To Understand By Asking Questions

Good listening means being curious, so ask questions to get a better understanding of the situation. But only do this when it needs to be done, and don’t ask questions just to “fill the silence.” People need the space to express themselves.

Wisely Choose Your Listening Partner

Listening can be emotionally draining, so only provide active listening for people that you care to know better. Not everyone is deserving of your listening gift, so be discerning.

So get your listening on, because good listening is one of the greatest skills you can work on in life.



Jon Tesser

I use data to understand people. I also help early career professionals find career happiness.