My publisher, Guilford Press, reminded me to tell you about The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships, just released in its second edition. The book by Dr. Mike Nichols explores the ways in which poor communication skills have robbed us of the comfort and security that can only come from genuine human interaction. He then offers “a wealth of practical techniques, simple exercises, and easy-to-reference tips for becoming a better listener and establishing solid lines of connection with those around us.”

Listening, as I noted recently in a blog entry about improving your communication skills in a relationship, is a core component to a healthy relationship. Many relationships fail simply because one or both partners in a relationship aren’t taking the time and effort to really listen to what their partner is saying.

You can keep banging your head against the wall, or you can learn and practice good listening skills:

1. Concentrate on the person who is speaking.

  • Set aside distractions.
  • Suspend your agenda.
  • Interrupt as little as possible. If you do interrupt, it should be to encourage the speaker to say more.

2. Try to grasp what the speaker is trying to express.

  • Don’t react to just the words–listen for underlying ideas and feelings.
  • Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Try to understand what the other person is getting at.

3. Let the speaker know that you understand.

  • Use silence, reassuring comments, paraphrasing.
  • Offer empathetic comments.
  • Make opening-up statements (tell me more; what else) versus closing-off statements (I get it; the
    same thing happened to me).

This book has been around since 1995 and sold over 100,000 copies, so Dr. Nichols must be saying something right. If you want a good read to understand how you can improve your listening skills, I’d say consider picking this one up ($14 bucks at