Building strong relationships — at work and beyond — largely comes down to how we listen to others. And while not all of us are naturally gifted listeners, we can improve with practice. UC Santa Barbara psychology professor Tania Israel recommends we break the process down into three core steps. To start with, we can pay active, silent attention to what others are saying. Next, we can repeat what we have heard in our own words, making sure we understand what’s been said (even if we don’t agree). And finally, we can ask open-ended questions, the kind that can’t be answered with a yes or no and demonstrate that we are processing what we’ve heard.

The key to being a better listener

How to lister to someone you don’t agree with

How to listen — really listen — to someone you don’t agree with

This post is part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from people in the TED community; browse through all the posts here.

Listening may not be the most exciting part of conversation, but it’s essential if you want to have a meaningful exchange with another person.

Think about a time you felt misunderstood by somebody. Did you defend yourself? Correct them? Or simply disengage? Regardless of your response, you likely didn’t feel comfortable with them.