Active Listening in the Workplace: Your Guide to Better Conversations
Conversations are a vital part of most jobs, but the way communication is conducted may not always be the best. The factor that may be lacking? Active listening. Using this communication skill during discussions at your workplace could make or break the effectiveness of what is being conveyed in meetings and may be the most important aspect of success found in your office.
If you’ve been frustrated by the lack of effective communication at work, you’re not alone. The Grossman Group found that poor listening and conversation skills are sadly common in teams of any size and can lead to several breakdowns in effectiveness and productivity.
To become better at listening and responding, continue reading about what active listening is and how it can help your business succeed.
What is Active Listening?
At its core, active listening seems like an easy skill to master, but it can be a lot harder than you think to fully understand and practice this type of attention during conversations. In short, active listening is being truly present and engaged when someone is talking to you. It’s not just about acting like you’re listening; it also includes facial expressions and body language.
According to the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, when giving your attention to someone, you should have the goal to listen to understand and respond so you can comprehend the topic through verbal and non-verbal communication.
This type of speech is straightforward and is defined as any communication using language to convey meaning, both in-person and in written deliveries. Examples of this type of response include:
- Speaking on the telephone.
- Face-to-face discussions.
- Speeches or debates.
Unlike verbal communication, this style of response is harder to define and is much broader. Indeed defines it as the transfer of information through body language, facial expressions, gestures, created space and more. Some forms of non-verbal speech include:
- Crossing your arms.
- Slouching your shoulders.
- Hand motions or gestures.
- Extra space between two people.
- Eye contact.
- Placing a hand on your friend’s shoulder.
Standard listening happens without us even noticing. You hear dogs barking outside, planes passing overhead and conversations happening next to you on the bus. But, active listening takes a bit more attention and practice to master. To actively listen to the person talking, you must:
Restate or Summarize
As the whole point of active listening is to comprehend a topic, it’s vital you repeat important facts or put together the main points for the speaker to know you understand what they’re saying.
Show you are interested in what the person is saying and engaged in the conversation by making eye contact, having open body language — turning toward the speaker and keeping your arms unfolded — and nodding your head to show you hear them. You can also add verbal reactions.
Give Constructive Feedback
It’s especially important in the workplace for you to use your listening skills to give knowledgeable and respectful suggestions and observations to what the other person presented. Look at the positive parts of the main topic first and then present alternative ideas or helpful points to move the communication forward with everyone on the same page.
It might sound obvious, but to truly listen, you must not speak over the other person or interrupt them. Give your coworker your undivided attention and let them say what they need to say without being quick to jump in. Also, avoid spending this time overthinking about how you plan to respond to the person because this distracts from the listening process.
With this knowledge, your office may be able to effectively communicate better. Let’s look at some of the other benefits of active listening skills.
The Importance of Active Listening Skills
In most workplaces, conversations are a big part of how things get done. If you leave work-specific meetings with little to no direction or spend most of the time talking about specific topics without getting anything accomplished, then your office may be lacking active listening practices. One of the biggest benefits of active listening is your team or group of workers will be able to voice their concerns or opinions easier, finish projects faster and collaborate more effectively.
Another benefit is the added trust between your coworkers or team members. Whether you’re leading the group discussion or not, showing empathy for others and focusing on how your responses and listening skills affect the people you work with can build closer relationships. If you know your office is paying attention and understanding your ideas, then you will be able to more confidently work alongside them to accomplish business goals.
For business leaders, it’s vital their employees feel seen and heard. It’s your job to actively listen to their concerns, opinions, suggestions and ideas to ensure they know they’re valued and an important part of your company. This type of employee and employer relationship can help increase retention rates and employee engagement while lowering communication issues.
How Can You Use Active Listening at Work?
Active listening is important in any setting, but the workplace is especially important for great communication. Here’s how you can use this skill at your office or work facility:
If you’re in the customer service industry, then you know how important it is to use active listening skills when having conversations with customers. People call you with a need or concern, and they want to know you hear them and understand what they’re experiencing.
Meetings are a big part of how many businesses communicate and move forward in projects. If people are unable to listen, don’t use respectful feedback and have closed body language, then conversations will just lead to frustration and wasted time and resources.
When you listen to information someone is giving to you, it’s vital you pay attention to what they’re saying — even if the data doesn’t seem relevant for you to know. Chances are, the person at the front of the room has put time and energy into creating and practicing this speech in the hopes that people would be active listeners and give them their undivided attention.
Around the Workplace
When you’re at your desk, warehouse, facility, campus or anywhere you spend most of your workday, active listening skills are still necessary to employ. Whether it be a quick conversation about the weekend, an announcement made over email or any other type of discussion with someone around you, to be a good coworker you must actively listen and respond respectfully. Doing this could make the entire company more successful.
Improve Your Listening Skills With These Tips
Understandably, using active listening doesn’t come naturally to everyone, which is why it requires practice. To avoid frustration and poor communication skills in the workplace, follow these tips to incorporate healthy and effective listening skills:
- Make Eye Contact: To show you’re paying attention, let people see your eyes as they’re speaking. This is an easy way for them to know that you’re hearing what they have to say.
- Don’t Interrupt: Always make sure the person speaking has finished their thoughts before you decide to talk. Speaking over someone can make them feel inferior or unimportant.
- Seek to Understand: Before a discussion is over, think through what it is you just talked about and ensure you comprehend the points that were discussed. By practicing being a good listener, meetings should end with everyone on the same page.
- Don’t Transcribe Meetings: While taking notes during presentations, don’t attempt to write down everything that is being discussed. This may lead to you losing focus and not keeping up with the information being shared. Instead, write down keywords or phrases and underline where you may have questions. Then, fill in the rest after the meeting.
- Don’t Cross Your Arms When Listening: Maybe this is the most comfortable way for you to sit or stand, but it may lead the speaker to believe you’re angry or closed off about a specific topic or idea. Keep your body language open and approachable by keeping your hands at your side and facing your coworkers.
Although active listening may seem like a complicated practice to master, you don’t have to figure it out alone. For business leaders who want to be more effective communicators, there are video-based, online training tools that can be implemented into your company. With this flexible format, everyone on your staff can get the proper knowledge that they need, no matter where they are in the world.
Have better communication by learning how to be an active listener with MasteryTCN.
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