Effective, empathetic communication is the key to a successful workplace and good active listening skills are the foundation.
When it comes to listening, we often focus more on ourselves than the person with whom we’re speaking.
Our natural tendency is to give our opinions and defend our own point of view before truly understanding the problem. As renowned relationship authority Dale Carnegie said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
The most effective relationships are formed and the best solutions are found when people are willing to listen with the goal of understanding. That requires us to suspend our judgments long enough to pay attention, seek to learn, and demonstrate that we comprehend what the other person is saying. This is the essence of active listening.
Read on to learn more about the value of active listening in the workplace along with six techniques for improving your skills.
What kind of listener are you?
- Passive listeners often miss the intent or underlying reason for the communication because they are focused on themselves or their surroundings. They may be preoccupied with being right or seeming smart. Their behavior often includes finishing the other person’s sentences, interrupting, or offering advice when it is not requested. Even if the speaker is providing a clear message, passive listeners miss much of what is being said. They are usually distracted, looking at their cell phone or going over a to-do list in their head, which pulls their focus away from the conversation.
- Active listeners engage with the speaker in a number of ways. They offer nonverbal cues like eye contact and restate what they heard in order to confirm their understanding of the information. Getting to this level of high-quality, deliberate, focused, open-minded listening takes work. But it is well worth the effort because active listening enables people and teams to think innovatively, collaborate well, and relate to others on a deeper level. It reduces misunderstandings and improves productivity, which are critically important to the long-term success of any workplace.
Ready to take your listening to a higher, more productive level?
Apply and practice these active listening techniques to communicate more effectively:
- Adopt a listening frame of mind.
True listening requires concentration, so focus on being present and in the moment. Take some deep breaths and say to yourself, “Listening is not about me” or “Don’t rush to conclusions. Seek to understand.”
- Pay attention.
Give the speaker your undivided attention. Avoid the distraction of thinking about what you will say next, looking at your phone, or making a mental to-do list.
- Consider your body language.
Our bodies speak volumes during conversations. Demonstrate that you are listening by displaying open, inviting body language. Make eye contact, nod occasionally, and uncross your arms. Facial expressions are especially important. Are you frowning, rolling your eyes, or looking away?
- Seek to understand.
Rather than defending your position or sharing your opinions, make it a point to hear what the speaker is saying and reflect on the information. Paraphrase what you’ve heard and ask questions to clarify any points you don’t fully understand. Saying things like, “So if I understand you correctly” or “Let me repeat what I heard” are effective ways to show you are interested and engaged. If the speaker sounds overwhelmed or frustrated, you might say, “You sound upset. Tell me what’s going on.”
- Don’t interrupt.
If you have questions or want to comment, resist the urge to blurt out your thoughts. Hold your questions or observations until the speaker has finished making their point.
- Respond appropriately.
Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding. It’s all about gaining information and learning about others’ perspectives. Attacking the speaker or putting them down adds nothing to the conversation. Be candid and open in your response. If your opinions differ from the speaker’s, share them in a respectful manner. You won’t go wrong if you treat the other person the way you would want to be treated.
While these concepts are simple, active listening is a learned skill that requires dedication and regular practice. Apply these principles in your workplace to forge stronger relationships, improve the company culture, and experience personal and professional growth.
Active listening is a skill you can master to make your career shine and improve the happiness of everyone in your workplace. The HR Team has decades of experience helping leaders like you to make the most of their communication skills. Please contact us to learn more.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.