Forbes defines active listening as “the ability to focus entirely on a speaker, understand their message, and comprehend the information.” With communication being one of the most important soft skills you can possess in the workplace, being able to actively listen well, will boost your communication skills and make you a better leader in the workplace.
Active listening helps you clearly understand the speaker, listen to what they’re saying, and be able to find a solution. With so many professionals working remotely today, active listening will also take you a long way as you interpret conversations over video chats and phone calls.
Active Listening Techniques
To truly master this skill, you need to understand what goes into being a good active listener.
- Paying attention to body language: While this is harder to do over a screen, it’s important to stay active in the conversation with facial expressions, eye contact, and other nonverbal communication such as hand gestures, posture, nodding, and smiling.
- Intention and focus: Stay focused during the conversation and actively strive to understand what the speaker is trying to tell you. Keep distractions aside, especially if this is an important conversation.
- Stay actively involved in the conversation: You want to show that you are actively involved in the conversation by nodding, using small verbal cues like “yes” or “I understand,” and any other way to signal that you’re involved and listening.
- Genuine response: Ask questions to follow up on the conversation. The speaker might have more to say, so let them know that you want them to keep going and that you are listening and here to understand what they need.
It’s important to note that you should avoid judgment and keep an open mind when listening to the speaker. You want to be understanding and focused on the conversation rather than coming up with your own assumptions and conclusions.
Why is Active Listening Important?
Active listening in the workplace is crucial for effective teamwork and collaboration. It helps identify you as a good listener, which in turn can result in people seeing you as an effective communicator and good leader.
Here are some of the benefits of active listening in the workplace and why you should practice these skills to boost your career.
1. Helps Build Connections
Building a good relationship with your coworkers is important for comradery and collaboration. Being an active listener shows that you pay attention and that you are willing to work together. The more you show that you listen and pay attention, the more people will trust you and want to work with you, establishing you as a good collaborator.
2. Helps with conflict resolution
When working on projects and approaching deadlines, conflict can arise. While it’s common to have conflict at the workplace, it’s important to resolve this conflict quickly and in a professional manner. With good active listening skills, you are able to truly understand what the issue is at hand, put your own judgment aside and try to see everyone else’s point of view. By looking at others’ perspectives, you can come up with a solution that mitigates miscommunication in order to come up with a thoughtful and fair resolution.
3. Improves communication between teams and departments
Active listening gives everyone the chance to become better communicators and listen to what everyone is saying by putting aside their own thoughts and judgments. This is especially useful during collaboration when you need to pay attention to the information at hand so you can all use it to work together to solve problems. Additionally, paying close attention makes it easier to relay information to other teams and departments. When you switch off and don’t pay attention, you don’t catch important conversations which could lead to mistakes. When you actively listen to your coworkers, you are able to understand what the ongoing challenges are and work toward resolving them.
4. Allows you to gain knowledge
As you take the time and effort to focus on conversations, you are able to take in a lot more information which ends up enabling you to learn more from the conversation. Keeping an eye out on industry updates and news and actively paying attention to conversations will help you build on this knowledge and continue to be innovative as you further your career.
5. Build trust
We mentioned that active listening helps to build good relationships. This is because you establish trust when you’re seen as someone who listens and pays attention. If you are able to focus on conversations, you show that you care and that you are reliable to talk to. Trust is a very important foundation for building strong relationships, which is crucial to being a good leader and getting noticed by industry influencers.
6. Helps initiate a response and solution
Active listening enables you to catch issues and problems quickly and step in to fix these issues in a timely manner. The faster you’re able to come up with a solution, the easier it is to keep projects moving forward smoothly and on schedule.
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