Many professional self-development materials and advice speak to effective communication, wellness, goal setting, etc. One topic of self-improvement that sits high on my list of priorities is active listening. Much can be learned as we effectively listen to our colleagues, associates, clients, customers, family and friends. If we take time to really listen, and not just hear the individual speaking, we can gather a lot of information.
The difficulty in listening exists because most of us are too busy thinking a million different things such as how we will respond to the speaker, the email we have to respond to, our task list, our to-do list at home or the umpteen other methods of communication that act as constant distractions.
If we put aside the daily distractions and really listen, we will all benefit and learn so much more from our interactions. Below are some tips I have learned that certainly do help in my day-to-day.
- Really listen to the words, the tone, the body language and expressions of the speaker. By doing this we can truly understand the speaker’s message and feelings surrounding the discussion. By learning the speaker’s emotions and feelings, you can encourage them to open up more, establishing an element of trust.
- Disregard distractions and give your speaker your undivided attention. Avoid external distractions by ignoring side conversations, closing your email, putting your cell phone away, etc. Avoid internal distractions by redirecting your thought process to the individual you are listening to. Also, avoid internally preparing your rebuttal while the other personal is speaking.
- Summarize what the speaker has said and and relay this information back to them. This will ensure that you have completely gathered all important information and understand their challenge, goal or situation. Again, this further gains trust.
- Provide feedback via your own body language to show you’re attentively listening. Encourage the speaker to continue by asking questions of clarification and open-ended questions that require them to elaborate.
Active listening requires concentration and determination, and with any habit worth breaking, consistency is key. Achieving and mastering this skill will benefit your workplace relationships and assist in developing your communication skills. I am working at perfecting this one! Good luck!