What is active listening?
Active listening is the purposeful attempt to focus intently on what someone is saying to you. It’s the process of engaging in and comprehending what the speaker is trying to convey to his or her audience. According to Indeed, “it’s the ability to focus completely on a speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully.” And that differs quite a bit from passive listening, which only requires that your ears physically hear what is being said without regard for or deciphering the content. If someone asked you what you just heard, and you listened passively, you might not be able to tell them. So, hands down, active listening is the way to go if you are truly trying to hear, understand, and be able to effectively respond to the speaker.
What role does listening play in business?
Listening plays an important role in business as part of the communication process involving employees, customers, vendors, and others. Listening, without a doubt, is a critical piece of developing the relationships between these groups. A Forbes article goes even further to state that “listening is the single most crucial skill in communicating and building your business.” The effect listening has on daily business operations includes increasing productivity, boosting confidence, and even reducing errors. And such benefits go a long way towards building a successful business. So, how can you improve this important part of communication to drive these benefits for your business?
How can I improve my listening at work?
There are several ways to improve your listening skills at work. First and foremost, keep your mind focused on what is being said by the speaker. Don’t drift off into other thoughts. Your experience at a local restaurant, your trip in traffic, and other distractions from earlier in the day need to be cleared from your mind. If you aren’t actively listening in what is being said, you will miss key information that may be important to your role at the company. Let the speaker know that you understand what they’re saying by empathizing with them. Acknowledge that you are listening by nodding your head in agreement, smiling or laughing when appropriate, and so on. If you don’t understand something, ask questions or have the speaker provide you with examples. Or ask the speaker to simply clarify their statement.
What are good listening habits?
Besides avoiding distractions, good listening habits will help you to stay focused. They may seem natural to the listening process but will likely take some discipline on your part to truly become a habit. And like any good habit, you’ll need to practice them every chance you get. These habits include paying attention to the content and context of the speech. For example, what words are they using and what are the overall themes? Another good habit to develop is to recognize the tones and emotions of the speaker. By doing this, you will better understand their perspective and how their feelings are important to the topic. You should also practice paying attention to the speaker’s body language and be sure to make eye contact. This connection provides a bond as you both engage in the give and take of communicating. These are a great start and important to developing your listening skills. In fact, Inc.com lists these recommendations among others in their top ten recommendations for immediately improving listening and networking skills.
What are the biggest deterrents to listening?
Distractions are the biggest deterrents to listening. Today’s world doesn’t allow for a day without distractions! So, when you’re trying to zoom in on what is being said by the speaker, it can be very difficult to set aside the thoughts of the morning, the past weekend, your day off, etc. Even so, you need to put these ideas out of your mind.
What are some tips for better listening?
The best tip for improved listening is staying focused on the conversation, discussion, presentation, etc. To do this, be sure you have no reminders hanging around your immediate environment, like a computer screen displaying your next trip, or tickets to tonight’s game in your pocket or on your desk. Remember, out of sight, out of mind. Another tip is to keep your mind open to what is being said. This may sound easy until a topic comes up that you don’t agree with or wish to discuss. The third tip has to do with resisting the temptation to interrupt. Interrupting will derail the speaker’s message and you might lose valuable information as a result.
How can you tell if someone is really listening?
You can tell if someone is listening by looking at their eyes and their body language. Are they staring into space? Are they tapping on the table? Are they busy doodling on a page? Where are they sitting or standing? Are they leaning on the exit door? These may all be signs that their mind is preoccupied and not tuned into what you are saying.
How can I get others to listen?
If others are not listening to you, the problem may be your communication skills. It’s a good idea to be sure you are doing your part to provide the listener with valid reasons why they should engage with what you are saying. For example, do you sound natural and relaxed or are you wound up and tense? Is your voice projecting? Are you speaking in a clear tone? Are you articulating your words correctly? Check your speed too. Are you talking too fast? How long does it take for you to get to the point? Worse, are you rambling on and on? If you’re telling a story to engage the audience, how relevant is it? And how long is your story? People might doze off or think about other irrelevant things while they’re waiting for you to move on.
What can you do if someone refuses to listen?
If you find that someone is not listening to you or refusing to listen to what your saying, there are a few things you can do. One of the best ways is to give them a chance to say something. Giving them the opportunity to express their feelings and viewpoint will go a long way towards creating trust and open the door towards better communication. You should also ask meaningful questions that will bring them into the conversation. After all, communication shouldn’t be a one-sided venture where one person dominates the process. Also be sure that they are comprehending your message. You might be surprised to learn that they do not understand what you are trying to convey. Find a way to better present your points to be sure that you are not being misunderstood. If they have a closed mind about your conversation, it will be impossible to engage them in a productive communication process.
How can I help others with their listening skills?
If employees pose a challenge in the listening department, it’s a good idea to explore they’re learning styles. Maybe having someone stand in front of a room verbally explaining company policy isn’t enough. You may have visual learners in the audience who could use a physical representation of what’s being said. A mixture of different presentation techniques including videos, audio, music along with a PowerPoint can keep your words to minimum but convey a powerful message. Give them hints of what’s important to pay close attention to. Allow opportunities for questions and answers. Make your audience part of the presentation and engage them in exercises to remember the topic and key points. If you find that certain techniques prove to be effective with your employees, like sitting outside, use them! Switch things up. Using the same method of giving information can be boring and potentially close your employees’ minds on what they are about to hear. Make it interesting and they’ll be interested in your message!
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