Why You Should Practice Active Listening

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Often, we can think we hear one thing, but the speaker meant something completely different. This can cause confusion and frustration within teams. That’s where active listening comes in.

 

According to HR professional Amanda Cooper, active listening is “fully concentrating on what is being said, rather than just passively hearing the message of the speaker… It means you want to listen with all of your senses.” Learning and improving this skill can be what makes or breaks your next promotion, job search, or team project.

 

Why is Active Listening Important?

We all like to be heard. But even more important, we want to know we’re being understood. When you practice active listening, it ensures that the speaker feels heard and that we comprehend what is actually being said. This can cut out a lot of the back and forth due to misunderstanding.

 

Active listening is also an important communication skill. If you are a leader (or working up to be a leader) it can help you build connections with coworkers and grow the trust they have in you. It can also improve your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, because you are able to get to the root of the problem without distractions.

 

Active listening can also help you be a better leader by being able to talk openly with your team. You will be able to better detect if there are issues or if a team member is becoming overwhelmed because you are following up with questions to get more information.

 

How to Practice Active Listening

Like any other skill, active listening takes practice. During your next conversation, try these tips:

  • Be present:

    Minimize any distractions. Close your computer or phone so you don’t get any pings. You don’t need to stare at the speaker intensely the whole time but putting down a phone or pen can show your interest in what they are saying.

  • Don’t interrupt:

    Allow the speaker to finish their entire thought before jumping in. When brainstorming or talking through an idea, it can be easy to want to jump in when you think of something. Instead, stop and listen to their entire thought before giving your idea or advice.

  • Ask questions:

    Asking question allows you to delve deeper into the conversation. Be sure these questions are specific to the problem on hand and allow the speaker to provide more detail.

  • Paraphrase:

    This can be critical in understanding. Repeat what was said in your own words. This allows the speaker to better to clarify or confirm that you understand the problem at hand.

 

Active Listening Online

In the world of Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime, some of the verbal and physical cues of active listening can get lost. Sometimes saying “I understand” or “I see” can cut off the speaker and now you’ve missed what else they’ve said.

 

The key to active listening online is to close out distractions. Having multiple windows open, glancing down at your phone, or messaging someone on Slack takes away from you hearing what someone is saying. Your team can also see your hands or eyes moving around as you read something on the screen and will know that you are distracted.

 

We know it can be uncomfortable to have to look at your face during meetings, but instead spend that time to focus on your teammates. Try to note their facial expressions as they talk. If you are unable to hear, let them know (especially if they’re on mute), utilize the chat function more, or create hand signals that your team can use during meetings.

 

Active listening through technology can require a little more effort than an in-person conversation, but it is possible!

 

 

Resources:

Time is Money, So Listen (Podcast Episode)

Active Listening 101: How to Turn Down Your Volume to Turn Up Your Communication Skills by Emilia Hardman (Book)

How to Practice Active Listening by Arlin Cuncic (Article on Verywell Mind)

“20 Skill Building Sites You Need to Know” (Blog)

 

Register for “Let’s Change the Conversation” here

 

 

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