“Sorry, What Did You Say?” How to...

“Sorry, What Did You Say?” How to Become a Better Listener, and Why It Is Essential for Success.

by Mariann Roberts
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Imagine one of your classmates went up to the front of the room right now and gave a ten-minute presentation. Immediately after the presentation, would you be able to confidently recite all the information that was just given? Most of us would probably like to say yes, but what if I told you immediately after a ten-minute presentation you will likely only retain about half of what the presenter just said. After 48 hours that number splits in half, leaving you with only about a quarter of the original information. It’s easy to see how problematic and ineffective this is for a student when trying to learn, especially when beginning post-secondary. There must be a better way to effectively learn and understand information, which leads to more personal, academic, and professional success. Thankfully, there is! The answer is becoming a better, more effective listener. If your listening skills aren’t your greatest asset, don’t worry. We’ll look at some different strategies on how to get you there.  Here are some (but not all) of the ways you can improve your listening skills.


  • Keep eye contact with the speaker.
  • Remain focused and attentive.
  • Ask questions at appropriate times.
  • Anticipate what the speaker is going to say next. This will help ensure you are remaining focused while properly understanding what is being said.
  • Make short, mental summaries of what has just been said.
  • Identify the key aspects of the speakers point, and how it’s relevant.
  • Take an interest in what the speaker is saying.
  • Put away all distractions (like your phone or laptop) and give the speaker your full attention.
  • Connect what is being said to experiences in your own life.
  • Observe non-verbal communication, such as body language.
  • Be aware of your own body language. Nodding off, a loss of eye contact or inappropriate posture indicate a loss of interest to the speaker.


  • Fall into the, “this is boring” trap. Telling yourself the topic at hand is uninteresting will leave you struggling to remain focused and will drift your attention elsewhere.
  • Pretend to be listening. Better listening skills will help you retain information more effectively. Simply pretending to be listening won’t help you improve.
  • Switch your attention to what you are going to say next, rather than what is being said right now.
  • Allow bias to cloud your perception. Open your mind to all possible areas of the topic, even if you don’t agree.
  • Try to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. Give your speaker the respect you would want if you were in their positon.
  • Give into selected hearing. Only hearing bits and pieces of what the speaker is saying does not allow you to fully comprehend the subject.

How will becoming a better learner help you?

The first answer that may pop into your head is that being a better listener means a lesser need to cram before exams. Once you understand and retain information more effectively, you won’t need to re-teach yourself the information you didn’t retain during the lesson. When listening effectively, reviewing your material afterwards should be all you need. This is especially crucial in post-secondary. Many professors only speak during lectures without providing written notes, leaving you responsible to effectively listen, interpret and retain the given information.

You may have also considered the personal benefits of becoming a better listener. Effective listening and communicational skills are key aspects to stronger personal relationships. Remaining attentive, focused, and interested in what another person is saying allows you to better understand someone’s perspective, leading to stronger connections and more meaningful conversations.

Did the professional benefits of becoming a better listener cross your mind as well? One of the main skills employers are searching for in younger generations of employees is strong listening and communication skills. Set yourself apart from other candidates by strengthening your listening skills before entering the workforce.

Remember like all skills, being an effective listener won’t happen overnight. With time, practice and a conscious desire for change, your listening skills will improve before you know it.

Leave a comment!