Are You an Active Listener?
In the previous article we focused on the question of miscommunication in workplace. One of the useful tips we recommended was that you become an active listener. However, some of you might not be familiar with this term so we decided to explain it a bit more.
Being an active listener means, as the title suggests, the ability to listen and understand a message and not simply hear it. Hearing is not listening. Active listener pays the attention to the speaker, encourages him with his facial expressions and gestures and doesn’t interrupt him or his chain of thoughts.
The ability to listen is very rare these days. It helps us develop our personal and professional relations and improve our efficiency by preventing misunderstandings. We recommend that you try to master the following tricks.
The speaker will not appreciate if you keep playing with your phone or looking out of the window while he speaks. It would seem like you don’t pay any attention to what’s being said. Focus on the speaker instead and maintain eye contact.
Keep an open mind
Listen without judging the speaker or jumping to conclusions immediately. Criticizing the speaker, even if done mentally, will cause prejudice and compromise your effectiveness as a listener. Active listener should be open-minded and welcome new ideas.
We used to be taught that interrupting someone is rude. Interrupting sends a clear message that you consider your own opinion to be more valuable and that you don’t respect the speaker enough. Everyone’s mind works at different rate. If yours is faster than the speaker’s, it is you who should slow down – not the speaker.
Hold back your questions
If a question crosses your mind while your counterpart still speaks, wait until the end to ask it. If your question leads to changing the subject, take the responsibility and return the conversation back where you left it.
Empathy is the heart and soul of active listening. Show the speaker that you understand his feelings by reflecting his facial expressions, gestures or voice your agreement. Look sad when the topic is sad, happy when the speaker enjoys himself and supportive when he faces problems.
Try to summarize what you have learnt and present how you understand the issue. Repeat the key findings and the next steps that you agreed upon. You will show that you pay attention and your counterpart will appreciate that you take him seriously. Repeating and summarizing is important mainly for business meetings.