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Effective communication is essential for success in the workplace. While many interpret that as speaking clearly, communication also encompasses how well a person listens to the other party. To communicate well is to practise the art of active listening.
Active listening means listening and engaging with another person to ensure both of you are on the same page of understanding. Usually, this involves some action steps, such as clarifying the content of what is being said, paraphrasing points and summarising the discussion. This then allows the speaker to feel like their opinion is valued and appreciated, which goes on to create a good rapport. That way, a platform to foster inclusivity, respect and support for one another is created.
Let’s go into the details of what active listening means and how to tap into this valuable skill successfully.
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The benefits of active listening
A powerful tool for the workplace, active listening helps you earn the trust and respect of others. It lets you show that you’re genuinely interested in listening to their opinions and makes them feel like they matter. This creates a more inclusive and supportive work culture in which others feel like their ideas, feedback and suggestions matter, resulting in better collaboration and teamwork.
Additionally, active listening allows you to gain a better understanding of the issues faced at work by gathering the right details. You’ll be better informed of the necessary pain points, which will enable you to formulate more accurate and effective decisions and solutions. It also helps you clarify issues, ask relevant questions and ensure you have the right understanding of matters. Practising active listening in situations allows others to feel heard and understood, making them more open and willing to find a solution.
Improving your active listening skills
So how can you improve your active listening? Here are some steps to follow.
1. Pay attention to the speaker
Limit the distractions around you and give your full attention to the person speaking. Pay attention to the person’s both verbal and non-verbal cues, including body language or eye contact. Avoid interrupting the speaker or multitasking. This way, you are showing a genuine interest in the conversation.
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2. Be open to different perspectives
Practise objectivity in your conversation by listening to the views of others. Don’t let your biases get in the way, and definitely do not pass any judgement, even if you disagree. Make it a point to understand the speaker’s point of view and avoid making any assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Instead, ask meaningful follow-up questions to clarify and confirm your understanding to show your sincerity.
3. Summarise the main message
Offer a brief statement that reflects the information that was discussed. Summarising helps everyone to be on the same page by reinforcing your understanding and confirming if the speaker’s message has been correctly interpreted. This also opens up an opportunity for your colleagues or peers to gather more input and suggestions for better discussion and collaboration.
Whether it’s for networking, reducing conflict, problem-solving, providing feedback or as a persuasion technique, active listening is a critical skill that can greatly enhance your professional relationships. Do it well, and you’ll be further in step to gaining the trust and respect of your colleagues and increasing your career success.