Active listening is crucial in fostering an inclusive environment. When your team develop real connections with each other they feel they can bring their whole selves to work, which results in increased productivity and better emotional wellbeing. How well you listen also has a major impact on your job performance, the quality of your relationships, and your leadership skills.
Last month we interviewed Pippa Mitchell from MRCagney, and she discussed the importance of listening. This got us thinking about how listening is one of the most important skills, yet many of us could improve our ability. Did you know research shows the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency?
So for this month’s top tips, learn simple ways that you can improve your ability to actively and effectively listen.
What is active listening?
This is where you make a conscious effort to not only hear the words the other person is saying but the complete message.
To actively listen you mustn’t allow yourself to become distracted or form counterarguments while the person is still speaking, nor allow yourself to get bored and lose focus.
Give the speaker your undivided attention and make them feel you’re hearing what they’re saying. Look at the person directly, put aside distracting thoughts, and tune into that person and what they’re saying.
Show that you’re listening.
Non-verbal communication speaks loudly – ensure your posture is open and interested. Use your body language and gestures to show that you’re engaged. You could nod, smile, and use other facial expressions to show your engagement.
Our filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what’s being said. Reflecting on what’s been said by paraphrasing and asking questions for clarification, are both great ways to communicate your understanding.
For example, when paraphrasing you might say: “What I’m hearing is…” or “Sounds like you are saying…“
And when clarifying points you might express: “What do you mean when you say… .” or “Is this what you mean?”
Interrupting is counterproductive – all you’re doing is frustrating the speaker and limiting your full understanding of the message. Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions or offering an alternate view.
Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding – and you’re gaining information and perspective.
Nothing good comes from putting the speaker down… So, be candid, open and honest in your response and communicate your opinions respectfully.
A great way to think about it is simply responding and treating the person the way you would find polite and helpful.