Mastering Active Listening

The Key to Effective Communications in Business

How often have you seen this play out in a team meeting? A staff member introduces an innovative idea, centered around a current service the company offers. But, the idea falls on deaf ears by the team manager. She is distracted with emails and calls, and rather than give the idea more attention and consideration, she is eager to move forward with the agenda, continually interrupting the employee instead of encouraging him to elaborate on his idea.

Clearly, the manager isn’t listening actively to her staff member.

Active listening is a foundational skill essential for success in today’s dynamic business landscape. It goes beyond just hearing words and focuses on understanding the nuances of communication, empathizing with different perspectives and fostering meaningful dialogue.
In a professional setting, active listening not only improves teamwork, decision-making and conflict resolution, but it also contributes to the overall health and success of an organization. Isn’t that worth a listen?

How Can We Improve Listening?

As we embrace diversity of thought and strive to overcome communication challenges, active listening has become a cornerstone of effective leadership. Improving your listening is all about giving the other person your full attention and showing them that.

Here are a few important tips to help you actively listen to your colleagues and clients:

Tip #1: Offer your full attention and remove distractions. 

Put away your mobile device, shut off your computer and limit any other distractions that may prohibit you from being present during a conversation. Offering your full attention and removing distractions creates an environment where meaningful communication can thrive without interruption.

Tip #2: Pay attention to nonverbal cues.

What is unsaid says a lot. Body language, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues can provide subtle yet crucial insights into the true meaning behind verbal communication. Make eye contact – it’s an active part of the conversation. Maintaining eye contact shows that you are paying attention to the other person and are engaged with what they are saying. Acknowledge what is being expressed. Nodding, and using facial expressions are all opportunities to demonstrate to the speaker that you are listening.

Tip #3: Pay attention to tone of voice.

Tone of voice carries significant meaning. It provides nuances of emotion, intention and emphasis that shape the interpretation of the speaker’s message. For example, read the room when a co-worker elevates their voice – some people may pull back versus leaning into the conversation. Refrain from interrupting to show respect; listen to what the speaker is saying.

When taking part in a conversation, use small verbal comments such as “uh-huh.” This can encourage the speaker to continue and lets them know that you are listening.

Tip #4: Listen for understanding.

Listen for meaning instead of concentrating on how you’ll respond. You’ll have deeper insights and a clearer understanding of what is being communicated to you.

Tip #5: Don’t make assumptions.

Don’t assume what people are going to say or believe based on what they look like. There is power in diversity of opinion. Gather as many viewpoints as you can from other team members, cultures, ages, races, genders, etc.

Tip #6: Make sure the other person feels heard.

A person feels heard when you show genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings. Listen without interrupting, acknowledge the speaker’s perspective and validate their emotions.

Miscommunications can and will arise. Along with the tips to help you actively listen, here are 4 communication strategies that will help to prevent miscommunications inside and outside of the workplace.

Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Let other people express themselves. Give him or her time – if he or she is receptive to it, ask calm probing questions to help draw out ideas.

Behave in a relaxed and “available” manner – it helps people feel more comfortable with you. Offer a handshake at the beginning, smile and be receptive to conversation.

This ensures that you understand (and they understand) what you/they are saying and that their opinions matter.

Before sending an email, text or other written form of communication, take the time to proofread and make any necessary edits. It shows professionalism and conveys your message accurately.

By integrating these tips into your communication practices, you can foster stronger connections, enhance understanding and promote a culture of active listening that drives collaboration and success in your professional interactions.

Ready to transform conversations into opportunities? Go ahead and apply these strategies into practice.

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