Personal Growth

How To Be A Listening Ninja

November 29, 2012

I have always thought of myself as a good listener. Imagine the day I realized I actually wasn’t.

photo by Joе

It was perhaps a year ago while reading a book on communication when I realized the truth. I was a horrible listener. No wonder I felt dissatisfied with how many conversations went. And, I realized this was also the basis for why I felt so unlistened to.

For many years, I thought I had to talk to be heard. Now I know I need to listen to be heard. When you listen well you establish deeper friendships and trust. You become a person other people want to be around. You will have opportunity to share your own struggles if you have practiced good listening skills yourself.

Here are six tips on becoming a listening ninja which I have been practicing. My life has become fuller and richer because of it.

1. Multitasking while listening makes you a non-listening ninja

True listening takes energy and focus. You can’t fully listen to anyone while watching TV or cleaning the kitchen. Stop what you are doing, turn and face the person you are listening to. Look at them, and take the time to listen.

This means more to people than you would ever think! It means you are their priority. It means, “I love you and I am willing to stop what I am doing to listen to you.”

If you can’t listen fully for some reason, say, “I would love to hear more about what you are saying, can we talk more about it this evening?” Than make sure to reinitiate the conversation. Forgetting this would simply instill the idea that you truly don’t care.

2. Listen without inserting an opinion

Many times while listening, I am tempted to interject my opinion. This is not a good idea. If they want my opinion, they can ask for it. Otherwise, imposing my opinion upon them before they are ready to hear it is useless.

It will only make them feel frustrated and misunderstood. You have to completely hear someone out before they are willing to listen to you. So stop interrupting with your own scenario and simply listen!

Even relaying a similar story is interrupting. Let the person talk. There will be a time and place that is appropriate for your story.

3. Stop slapping faces

Have you ever had someone you love share something with you which is upsetting? Have you found yourself immediately jumping all over them, scolding them for what they did rather than thanking them for opening up to you?

I have, and it is not effective.

Even if what they did was hurtful, it is like a slap in the face if you turn around and scold them for sharing it with you.

What they did can be addressed later. First take the time to thank them for sharing what was on their mind and heart.

People won’t open up if it is not a safe place to do so. Make yourself a safe place and people will open up to you. Thank them for sharing; it may have been really hard for them to do so. This way, you create a safe place for them to share again.

4. Silence is golden

photo by LaWendula

When listening, it is often the silence which is most precious. Silence allows the person who is talking to actually speak. Stop trying to finish their sentences or rush them. Let the person you are listening to get their words out at their own pace. Simply nodding your head or saying nothing is often better than words.

Silence is a wonderful thing! Most are uncomfortable with it and try to fill it. Silence allows the person who is speaking to feel totally comfortable. They will then be able to get their thoughts out more completely rather than feeling rushed or interrupted.

Silence is indeed golden.

5. Open-ended questions are a beautiful thing

I used to think I had to solve other people’s problems for them. Now I know I just need to listen and allow them to solve their own problems. Asking good questions helps this process.

Questions are a great way to better understand what someone is trying to say. It allows them to expand and gain greater clarity into what they are actually thinking.

Many people process while talking or writing. When I write, I need to get all the jumbled confusing stuff out of the way so I can actually start writing about what is on my heart. To do this, I just write random words, whatever pops into my mind.

People will also talk in this manner without realizing it. The words come pouring out and they often talk about things which are not the real issue on their mind or heart.

Asking open-ended questions is like using a cattle chute. It is a clear way of getting where you want to go both for the listener and the talker.

Here are some examples of open-ended questions:

“How does that make you feel?”

“Interesting, can you tell me more?”

“What happened next?”

“What are you going to do?”

There are so many, but using “how” or “what” is a good start to an open-ended question. It allows the person to expand without using a yes or no answer.

6. Stop talking negatively about other people

If you talk about other people in a negative way, you become a big red “do not enter” sign. Hearing you talk negatively about someone else makes you the last person someone would want to open up to.

Choose to talk positively about people even if you don’t feel positive. You are only harming your own reputation by putting someone else down.

Become a safe haven for others to talk to by becoming a person who is trustworthy. Establish trust and people will want to talk to you.

So, there you have it! Six ways to become a listening ninja!

If you want to read more on the topic of listening I would suggest these books.

  1. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. The Best Kept Secrets of Great Communicators by Peter Thomson (audio)

Question: How did you feel the last time you were talking to a listening ninja?


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  • Reply Ann Musico November 29, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Great post, Claudia and I have no doubt you are a listening ninja!!  Especially tips #1 and 3 have been VERY important as a parent.  I have made it a point to stop and really focus all my attention on what they are saying and it hasn’t come automatically but I have made myself practice #3 because I want them to always feel comfortable and free to come to us with anything.  This is why I always say my children have taught me more than I’ve taught them!!  

    • Reply Claudia Good November 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm

      Hahaaa! Well Ann I have definitely improved. I find I am always needing to refine and improve. 
      I am amazed how my relationships have changed from improving in this area however!

      Awww!!! You remind me of my closest friend’s mom. She was a great listener! Made you feel like you were the most important person in the world! If you were close by I would stop in for a cup of tea and put your listening skills to the test 😉 I’m sure you were and still are a listening ninja for your lovely kiddos! 🙂


  • Reply Joe Lalonde November 29, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Awesome advice Claudia. To go along with point 1, point away any and all electronics. Having your cell phone, even if you’re not using it at the moment, tells the other person someone or something else is more important to you. You’re only listening until the more important thing comes along.

    • Reply Claudia Good November 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Indeed… great add on! Cell phones can be such a distraction!
      Even if I hear it beep with a text alert my mind immediately starts wondering who sent a text and I am distracted from the conversation! 

      Therefore away with electronics during the conversation as you say!

  • Reply Cindy Hirch November 29, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Love this post Claudia! For me #2 and #3 seem to resonate the most. I can think of a couple of scenarios where scolding may have been the desired thing to do, but I’ve learned not to react but to listen. Recently the opportunity to do just that was present. It came to mind as I read what you shared. This person told me they always feel they can come to me because I don’t scold them for their choices even though I may not agree with what they did. There is always opportunity to impart what you feel strongly about…down the road at the right time.

    • Reply Claudia Good November 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      Hey Cindy, thanks!
      hmmmm wow, I love hearing stories like that! You are a safe place! What a blessing!

  • Reply Chris Peek November 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Great thoughts, Claudia. I feel like I should stop and absorb it all rather than interject. 🙂 

    #1 made me realize that I stop talking to people who are multitaskers. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine, and I tend to respond as you said. Eye contact and body language are HUGE, even in our informal world.

    • Reply Claudia Good November 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      Hahaaa I felt there was a good amount of pausing and thinking before your response Chris… so, I think your ok 😉

      I hear you Chris! I also need that eye contact during conversation… it means so much when someone takes the time to actually look at you while you are talking. 

      We were just thinking of you two last night! Wish we could stop by for some more chips and lovely conversation!

      • Reply Chris Peek November 29, 2012 at 10:45 pm

        Well, you both are welcome to drop by anytime for some delicious homemade chips and convo. Feel free to spend a weekend in VA. The door is always open! I wanted to get up to PA to hike with Michael this month, but life circumstances haven’t allowed me to get away. I hope to head up that way after the new year when it warms up a bit, and I’ll try to bring some chips!

        • Reply Claudia Good December 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm

          Understandable Chris!! Hope you and Karen are finding some times of encouragement and rest!

        • Reply Michael Good December 3, 2012 at 9:03 am

          Looking forward to it, Chris! The hiking and the chips!

          • Chris Peek December 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm

            Same here! I had a thought the other day of selling the chips at events, since they’re such a hit with everyone.

          • Michael Good December 4, 2012 at 11:52 am

            That’s a great idea. I’d buy some!

          • Claudia Good December 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

            ohhhh i like it too!!
            Did we ever tell you about our Kettle Corn business that never got off the ground? 😉

          • Chris Peek December 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm

            Kettle corn, huh? Please share. Do you make it at home?

          • Claudia Good December 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm

            No, it was one of our first business ideas… we were going to travel to local horse shows and make kettle corn. Needless to say, we didn’t pursue it further 🙂

  • Reply Rob Clinton November 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Whenever I’m talking to a listening Ninja I feel trusted and that they genuinely care about what I have to say… I definitely practice this as well, and especially being a coach I feel I’m a very strong listener, but I do it objectively. Asking the questions that lead them to self conclusions of where they need to go and what they need to be doing now. The answers to everything can usually come from the other person if you just ask the right questions… Listening is a powerful thing! 

    • Reply Claudia Good December 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      It is powerful Rob!
      Did you read some specific books to help you become the listening Ninja I am sure you are? 

      • Reply Rob Clinton December 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

        Oh yes… I thought How to Win friends and Influence people was a great inspiration for me on learning to be genuinely interested in people… That really helps the listening process become focused and real…

        • Reply Claudia Good December 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

          Loved that one Rob! Made a huge impact on both of our listening and friend making abilities 🙂

  • Reply Michael Wright December 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    How natural it is for us to want to be heard, yet not give the same courtesy to others.  I have two ladies here at the house who sound off the alarm when I’m not listening, so I’m getting better at it day by day.  I have the hardest time when I am absorbed in work and one of them wants to start a conversation.  Unless, I turn away from the screen and look at them, I’ll never hear a thing!  When someone will say I’m a “good listener” (not often), the Queen can only chuckle.  With all these gadgets, phones and gizmos people communicate on, listening is not a skill many people are growing in. 

    Like Ann, I have to say we emphasize #3 alot with our daughter.  If she does something she thinks she’s in trouble for, she’ll even tell us her thinking behind it.  “Well I was trying to be sneaky, because…”.  Wonder how long that will last? Hopefully for awhile.  

    • Reply Claudia Good December 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Hahaa the story of your daughter is dear Michael! I love the honesty little kids have. There is no shame!

      I hear ya with the gizmos and gadgets sucking out attention. I definitely need to be intentional about putting those things away so I can fully listen. 

      I think what you shared is one of the challenges of working from home. We face it as well. There is not as much time to leave work at work when you are just walking out to another room instead of getting in your car and driving home!

  • Reply Kent Julian December 10, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Great Ninja skill advice! Especially #1. Listening and multitasking are like water and oil…they don’t mix.

    One thing I do sometimes to listen better when I’m on the phone is take a walk. I guess this could be considered “multitasking,” but I have found that getting out of the office when I’m on the phone helps me zero in on the conversation more. So this might be an exception to #1. Still, it’s something I’ve found very helpful.

    • Reply Michael Good December 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Nice, Kent. That sounds like a clever idea and not like too much of a distraction.

      I like to do the same thing when talking in person. Claudia and I have had some of our best conversations while going for a walk.

  • Reply Rob January 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    This is brilliant! I have a lot to work on it seams, I’m guilty of many of those. Thanks for sharing this. 

    • Reply Claudia Good January 28, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks for your input Rob!
      We are all in process, me included 🙂

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