Relational Listening: What It Is and Why You Should Be Doing It

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Relational Listening: What It Is and Why You Should Be Doing It

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What is relational listening? It’s a way of listening that involves being attuned to the emotional and non-verbal cues in the speaker. If you strive to build strong relationships with customers, you’ll find this skill set invaluable when building rapport.

Why relational listening?

There are many reasons why relational listening is beneficial, but three key reasons are:

  1. It builds a connection
  2. It shows empathy
  3. And it demonstrates understanding

When people feel seen, heard, and understood, they tend to respond positively. They’re more likely to be open and share information with you, which can help you understand them better and, ultimately, increase your success on the job.

Relational listening is built on 3 key principles

The three core principles of relational listening are:

  1. Empathy
  2. Affirmation
  3. Patience.

Let’s look at each one in more detail.


Relational listening means listening to others without judgment, showing that you care about the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Showing empathy can help to build trust and connection. Empathy involves putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to understand their perspective.


You should give verbal and non-verbal feedback that shows understanding, compassion, validation, etc. Affirming can also help people feel understood and supported during conversations which will go a long way in building trust between you both over time. Affirmation helps build rapport by indicating that you’re on the same wavelength.


Listening is often about being patient both verbally and visually through body language such as eye contact or nodding your head when appropriate. Nodding your head helps show that what they’re saying makes sense while maintaining an open posture demonstrates interest in them and their perspective on things without interrupting or rushing ahead of them before they’ve finished speaking.

Listening takes time – it’s not something that can be rushed. Patience allows us to take our time and really listen to what the other person is saying. This shows respect for both the speaker and their message.


Using relational listening techniques in customer service

When building solid relationships with customers, relational listening is essential. It helps create a connection with the customer, shows that you care about them, and demonstrates that you understand their needs.

For relational listening to be effective, it’s important to be aware of your own feelings and biases. When we’re wrapped up in our own thoughts and feelings, it can be difficult to really hear what the other person is saying. If this happens, we can fall back on our assumptions instead of trying to understand the customer’s point of view.

It’s also important to be patient. This means that relational listeners should not interrupt the speaker. It’s natural for people to want to jump in, but relational listening is built on active listening. This means that we should wait until the speaker is finished talking before responding. This allows us to fully understand their point of view and respond in a way that shows we’ve heard them.

When relational listening is used effectively, it can help to resolve customer service issues quickly and easily. Customers will feel seen, heard, and understood – something that all customers crave. By using relational listening techniques, you show the customer that you care about them and their experience with your company.

Relational listening takes time and effort, but it’s well worth investing your energy into relational listening with customers if you want to build strong rapport over time.

Examples of relational listening skills at work

Relationship building is key when it comes to working with colleagues and customers on a daily basis. Here are some common relational-listening scenarios:

  • During sales interactions
  • When communicating with teammates or co-workers during meetings
  • While interviewing prospective employees
  • During video conference calls
  • When resolving conflicts with colleagues
  • When addressing customer service issues

Each relational-listening scenario is different, but the goal of relational listening remains the same: to build rapport and trust through understanding others without judgment.

Using relational listening in communication

If relational listening isn’t your natural tendency at work – no worries! It can be learned if practiced often enough. Try using relational-listening skills next time you interact with a co-worker or a customer.

Here are some ways you can use it:

  1. When you’re waiting to give your input, it might be helpful to write down any thoughts that come up for you – this will help prevent interruption. This also allows you time to organize your thoughts to make sense later on when talking with others about work-related issues and ideas.
  2. Make sure not to judge what someone says and instead listen without offering an opinion until they feel fully heard. Then express yourself by giving non-judgmental feedback using phrases like “I understand” or “It sounds like you feel…”.
  3. Watch body language and look for nonverbal cues. If you’re good at reading people, this will come naturally to you, but even if you’re not, just paying attention can help deepen your understanding of what someone is trying to communicate.
  4. When speaking with customers, be sure to use phrases like “How can I help you?” or “What brings you in today?”. This helps show that you are engaged and interested in helping them meet their needs.
  5. If a customer seems upset, try using phrases like “I’m sorry that happened. I can see how that can be frustrating for you” or “Can I do anything to help make things right?”. These phrases demonstrate empathy which often defuses anger or conflict.
  6. Last but not least, wait for your turn to speak! Let the speaker finish their thoughts before jumping in.

How does relational listening relate to your career?

Relational listening is a powerful tool that can be used in all areas of your life and career. At work, relational listening allows you to be more effective by helping you understand what people want or need rather than offering unsolicited advice or judgment.

This helps build rapport with customers, which leads to stronger relationships and customer loyalty programs.

It also benefits co-workers since everyone feels heard and understood. This creates an environment where ideas are shared freely.

Relationships at home can improve as well when you practice relational-listening skills with family members or friends. Just think about how good it feels when another person tries to listen and understands you!

The next time you find yourself in a conversation, remember that listening well takes time and effort, but the payoff is worth it. Try using these tips to help you get started. And most importantly, have patience! It can take some practice before relational listening comes naturally.

Recommended Resources:

To keep learning and developing your listening skills, check out these resources:

4 Effective Steps to Use Analytical Listening in Problem Solving

The Art of Listening: 8 Qualities That Make Great Listeners

Why Listening Is Important In Communication With Customers

The Power of Appreciative Listening: Definition, Examples, and Tips

Selective Listening: Why It Can Be a Barrier for Workplace Communication

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