If you work in a management or leadership position, then active listening skills are crucial for your career. But what is active listening, and why is it so important? Active listening refers to the process by which an individual listens to secure information from another individual, or group of people. With active listening, you are paying attention to the conversation, listening to understand, not interrupting, and asking questions if needed to understand better. It is a helpful skill for any worker to develop, but especially useful for managers and others in leadership positions.
Listening to Understand
When you think about it, lots of people go about their lives conversing with others, but listening to respond rather than to truly understand what they are being told or what the speaker is experiencing. Perhaps you have been guilty of this yourself – only listening to something that you are being told so that you can respond about something similar you have been through, or advice that you have for the situation. However, with active listening, you will need to put all response planning aside for the moment and listen to truly understand what you are being told. You can learn more about how to do this with a communication certificate.
Listening to understand and empathizing with what you are being told go hand in hand. As a manager or business leader, you may often be in a situation where members of your team are telling you about things that you may have never actually experienced yourself. One of the key active listening skills to master is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person and imagine what it must feel like to be them right now.
When you are actively listening to somebody, it’s important that this is obvious to the person who is doing the speaking. Communication will always break down if the person that you are speaking to is not looking at you or is on their phone or tapping away at their keyboard while you are talking. If you want to get better at active listening skills, then one of the first things you will need to do is give the speaker your full attention. Nodding your head, or saying things like ‘yes’, ‘ok’, or ‘mmm-hmm’, are known as ‘minimal encouragers’ that let the speaker know you understand and are following along.
Finally, active listening isn’t always about just sitting there and listening. Since this is listening to understand, it’s important to ask questions that will help you clarify a situation. This could be questions that help you get more information on what actually happened, or questions that you can use the answers to for getting a better understanding of how the person who is talking to you felt or feels about something. Choose your questions wisely, and always ask from a place of trying to understand better.
Whether you are a manager or not, learning how to implement active listening skills in your everyday communications can make a huge difference to how you get on with and build relationships with others.