How attentively you listen to others will significantly affect your work performance and the quality of your current relationships. Therefore, just listening is not enough, what you need is to practice active listening skills as well.
So what exactly is active listening? What are the benefits of having active listening skills at work, and how can this be improved? Let’s find out in today’s article!
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What Is Active Listening?
Active listening is a skill that needs practice, not innate. Becoming a master of this skill requires quite a bit of time and patience.
As the name suggests, active listening means listening actively with the involvement of all the senses. In other words, you focus completely on what the other person is communicating instead of just “listening” passively, not focusing on their message.
The listener’s attention can be expressed in both gestures and words, including:
- Eye contact
- Nod your head, smile
- Never interrupt the speaker
- Agree by saying “yes” or “um” to encourage the other person to continue speaking.
By providing “feedback,” the speaker will feel more comfortable and carry on the conversation more quickly, openly, and sincerely.
In particular, listeners should maintain a neutral, non-judgmental attitude. (Do not choose sides or form opinions, especially at the story’s beginning).
Active listening also requires patience – pauses and brief silences must be accepted. Therefore, the listener should not rush to ask questions or make comments every time the speaker pauses for a few seconds. Instead, they should understand this is a time for speakers to deepen their thoughts and feelings.
Examples of Applying Active Listening Skills At Work
Here are a few examples of applying active listening skills at work:
- The customer service rep repeated the patron’s problem to reassure her that she was still listening.
- A consultant nods and says, “I’m still listening to you,” to encourage customers to keep talking about their bad experiences with the product.
- One leader noticed that an employee wanted to contribute but was afraid, and he encouraged her to share the idea privately with a small smile.
- An interviewer noticed that a candidate didn’t make eye contact with her when she was talking about her strengths.
5 Benefits of Active Listening Skills At Work
Whether you’re looking for a new job opportunity, striving for a promotion, or working to improve your current role, improving your active listening skills plays an important role in this journey. Like critical thinking and problem-solving skills, it will help increase your value.
Here are some benefits of having Active Listening Skills At Work:
1/ Build connections with others
Because you sincerely listen to what others say makes people want to communicate with you more often and feel comfortable sharing information. So, this can help open up opportunities to collaborate with other colleagues (regardless of department), get work done quickly, or start potentially new projects.
2/ Gain trust
Over time, when people know they can comfortably talk to you without interruptions, judgments, or unwanted interference, they will have more confidence in you. This is beneficial when meeting a new client or someone you want to develop a long-term working relationship with.
3/ Assist you in identifying and resolving the problem.
Actively listening skills will help you spot the challenges and difficulties your teammates are facing or problems that are emerging on the project. The faster you can spot these problems, the sooner you can find a solution or plan to address them.
4/ Improve knowledge of various topics.
To be a great employee/leader/manager, you must always strive to learn new things and develop your knowledge base. Active listening will help you retain information, gain insight into new topics, and remember what you’ve learned to apply it in the future.
5/ Avoid missing important information
Because active listeners interact highly with the speaker, they can recall specific details. This is especially important when the speaker demonstrates instructions, trains you in a new process, or conveys a message that you are responsible for passing on to others.
What Are The 10 Active Listening Skills?
Before going into this section, you need to know that there are two types of active listening: Verbals and Non-verbals.
Verbal – active listening skills at work
Reflect and clarify
Summarizing, reflecting, and clarifying the speaker’s message’s main point(s) helps you fully understand their meaning. This will also allow the speaker to clarify vague information or expand their message.
For example: “So you are talking about the current marketing process that is no longer meeting the needs of the customer because it does not support large video files?”
– This is how a marketing leader listens actively to summarize and discuss the problem the employee is having.
Ask open-ended questions
Asking open-ended questions about what you’ve gathered helps guide the speaker to share additional information. Ensure these questions cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”.
Example: “You’re right. The marketing process should have some tweaking. So what changes to the process do you think should be in the next six months?”
Use short affirmative sentences
Short, positive statements will help the speaker feel more comfortable and see you are engaged and able to process the information they provide. Affirmations also help you continue the conversation without interrupting or disrupting the speaker’s flow.
Example: “I understand.” “I got it.” “Yes, that makes sense.” “I agree.”
Show empathy and compassion.
Make sure the speaker understands that you can recognize their feelings and share them with them. By showing compassion and empathy, rather than just feeling it, you can connect with the speaker and begin to establish a sense of mutual trust.
For example: “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Let’s work together to figure out some ways I can help.”
Try to remember stories, key concepts, ideas, or other important points the speaker has shared with you in the past. This shows that you are not only listening to what they say at that time, but you can retain information and recall specific details.
For example, “Last week, you mentioned adding a content collaborator to help with the process, and I thought it was a great idea.”
Mirroring is repeating almost precisely what the speaker has said. You should use short, simple words, such as repeating a few keywords or the last few words just said. This is a signal for the speaker to continue their story. However, do not repeat everything they say or repeat too much as it can upset the speaker.
Non-Verbal – active listening skills at work
Smiles can show that the listener is paying attention to what is being said. Or as a way of showing agreement or interest in what they are hearing. If you combine it with nodding, smiling can be a powerful gesture to confirm that messages are being received and understood.
Looking at the speaker while they are speaking is very important and should be encouraged as it shows respect for the other person. However, for insecure and shy speakers, eye contact can create a sense of intimidation. Therefore, you need to adjust your eyes accordingly for each situation. Combine eye contact with smiling and other gestures to motivate speakers.
Postures and gestures
Posture and gestures can say a lot about both the listener. Active listeners tend to lean forward or lean to one side while sitting. They may also tilt their heads or rest their chin in their hands as they listen intently.
Active listeners will not be distracted and, therefore, will be able to restrain themselves from distractions. This is also the obligatory respect they have for their speakers. For example, they won’t look at their watch, draw crap on paper, pull their hair, or bite their nails.
How To Improve Active Listening Skills At Work
Active listening skills are essential in any field, and if you know how to improve, you will open up better opportunities in the future. Active listening is about taking in, interpreting the information you receive, and responding to it. And only understands what you say, but also anticipates what you are “about” to say.
So, here are some “tips” to help you become a good active listener.
Use body language
Body and facial expressions “tell” whether the listener is paying attention to the conversation. Therefore, managing your emotions and gestures during listening is important to help you master this skill effectively.
An active listener will act like nodding to show approval and maintaining the body in the most comfortable and natural state.
Avoid judging other people’s opinions.
The mission of the active listener is to listen, understand and respect the speaker’s point of view. So, do not interrupt while the other person is speaking, and do not try to express your own opinion while the other person is speaking.
Interrupting other people’s words will waste time and limit your ability to understand the entire message.
Rate the conversation
After the conversation is over, the active listener needs to re-evaluate the conversation to see if there were any mistakes or what messages were in the story.
Through re-evaluating the conversation, the listener learns other necessary skills in communication, such as how to behave, interpret, ask questions, etc.
Just listening is enough
Sometimes speakers need someone who can listen to them.
With familiar people, listeners will try to help them come up with a solution to the problem. But if your mind is busy with thoughts running through your head trying to come up with the best answer, you will fail to be an “active listener”.
Becoming an excellent active listener will benefit you in work and relationships. However, acquiring active listening skills at work takes a lot of effort, patience, and practice.
You must put yourself in the speaker’s position and listen to others how you want to be heard. This is an attempt to not only passively listen to the others but also understand their message. It requires you to be entirely focused, interact, and respond to the speaker.