A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

Tips for Improving Your Listening Skills

​Listening is another area where people who are blind or partially sighted rarely have difficulty. In fact, listening is such an important skill for them that they are often much better listeners than people who are fully sighted. However, there are always ways to improve a skill. This listening skills tip sheet provides you with some valuable tips to help you become an even better listener. Read through the following items and ask yourself “Do I already do this or do I need some practice?”


  • The key to good, efficient listening is to focus on the person speaking and not allow anything else to distract you. This means you can’t listen to someone and read text messages or email at the same time. If you have sight, you can’t be looking out the window or scanning the room looking for other people you know.
  • You can’t be listening to music or other conversations and simply tune in to the primary speaker on occasion. And, you can’t be daydreaming or planning for other activities while supposedly concentrating on the primary speaker. To be a good listener, you have to stay focused on the speaker even when he or she rambles, speaks in a monotone voice, goes off on a tangent, or displays any other distracting habit.
  • When you are listening, you need to focus on what is being said. This is actually harder than it sounds, because the brain gathers auditory input quicker than people can speak – so listeners can get distracted. If you’re having difficulty staying focused when listening, try taking notes. Sometimes the act of writing or entering notes using a keyboard while listening can help keep you engaged. Note-taking can also help with recall later.
  • When you are listening, you need to tune in to what the person speaking is feeling. This is especially critical for people who are blind or partially sighted as they are unable to read others’ facial expressions or body language.
  • Listen closely to the tone of the speaker’s voice and then attempt to guess how the person feels: happy, sad, angry, or fearful. It’s rare to confuse happy with angry or sad; however, people sometimes modulate their voices in such a way that it is truly difficult to know how they feel without asking. If you guess incorrectly, the speaker will straighten you out by telling you exactly how he or she feels; if you guess correctly, the speaker will think you are insightful and a good listener!
  • When you are listening, you need to listen for what the person is attempting to say. This means that you must make guesses based on what the person is saying and what the person is not saying – reading between the lines. Is the person sharing important information about work, social activities or something else entirely? If you are unsure what the real message is, guess aloud in the form of a question. For example, “Are you saying…? Or “Do you mean…?” Most speakers are happy to answer questions that indicate you’ve been listening well enough to have an intelligent question about what they are trying to communicate to you.
  • Finally, as you listen to others, think about what they are sharing with you that you need to remember for future conversations. Are they married? Do they have pets? Did they mention any hobbies or interests? Following an important conversation, jot down some notes to help you remember details about your co-workers or clients so that you can retrieve them in future conversations. It’s very impressive to most people when others remember things about them – for instance, the name of a child or a favorite restaurant.
  • Sighted people judge whether someone is paying attention or attentive toward them by where they are looking, their facial expression, and body language.
  • Be attentive to others - and they are more likely to be attentive to you.