Try Active Listening

Try Active Listening

Given the amount of technology devoted to various forms of communication, it’s curious how little attention we pay to just listening. In fact, we’re rubbish at it.

Research carried out by Michigan State University, and cited by the Harvard Business Review, found that the average listener remembers only 50% of a talk they’ve just heard, no matter how carefully they thought they were listening. A couple of months afterwards, most people remember less than 25% of it.

Clearly, the ability to listen is crucial. When you’re receiving instructions or being presented with information at work, you need to hear the whole message. If you’re only taking in 25%, are you sure that’s the important part?

And what if your business depends on listening to customers? Most of them do nowadays. When consumers expect a slick user experience and have the power to eliminate brands that don’t provide it, we can’t afford not to pay attention to what they’re saying.

Are you a good listener? Or are you hearing without listening? The answer lies in whether or not you are an active listener.

What is active listening?

Active listening doesn’t just happen naturally. That’s hearing. As the name suggests, it’s an active process – a conscious decision to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what’s being said.  Active listeners withhold judgement, reflect, clarify, summarise and share.

It’s a rare skill, and most of us don’t have it. This isn’t necessarily our fault. Life isn’t just busy – it’s noisy too. We’re distracted by clatter, half thinking about something else, only half listening to what someone else is saying.

Given that we’re moderately bad at listening most of the time, there are some occasions when we are, frankly, truly awful. Let’s take situations of conflict. How often, for example, have you assumed prior knowledge of what your opponent is about to say? You’ve heard it all before, so you get busy formulating a response. Instead of paying attention you’re simply `waiting to speak’, focusing on how to win the argument. This rarely ends well, and no one wins.

Active listening is, in many ways, the polar opposite of how most of us communicate on a daily basis. It means taking a back seat, giving the other person time to explore thoughts and feelings. Rather than jumping in with questions, comments or opinions, active listeners are patient (and brave) enough to leave silences, using and reading non-verbal signals to aid communication.

What are its benefits?

There are quite a few - but let’s start with the fact that active listening increases knowledge, reduces mistakes, increases efficiency and builds trust.

One of the techniques of active listening is summarising and clarifying. Once you’ve taken care to pay attention you then repeat, in your own words, what the speaker has said. It isn’t necessary to agree, you simply state what you believe you’ve heard. The speaker can discover whether you’ve accurately understood – and if you haven’t, they can explain some more.

By listening effectively, and then checking you’ve heard correctly, you’re able to grasp the exact information that’s needed. This enriches learning, aids memory and reduces the chances of making errors. At the same time, summarising and clarifying sends a clear signal to the speaker that they’re being heard and understood. You’re someone who can be trusted to listen.

This is just one of the many techniques of active listening – and we’ve barely begun to describe the positive effects of improved listening skills on your personal relationships, client relationships, and your business growth. Once you become aware of the listening problem, you hear it everywhere.

Featured in Work & Skills
Sign Up for Updates
You Might Also Like
The urge to create follows us through the human life cycle. From our attempts to draw on the walls as children, to how we structure and design our spreadsheets as adults. We’re constantly creating in a way that is appealing and functional, not just to us, but to others as well. We should aspire to […]
Guest writer, Nick Howley, shares his ideas on how Millennials can change the world by choosing work and careers that benefit society and the planet to create social impact. Many of us who graduated from top universities will recall the dizzying array of choices on offer at final-year careers fairs. Dozens and dozens of organisations, and […]
The demand for soft skills above and alongside technical abilities is growing in the ever-changing labor market. In particular, soft skills have an acute role as young people seek to be welcomed into the workforce. As the soft skills facts below highlight, they are required in fighting unemployability and other challenges facing employment and the […]
You Make It empowers young, unemployed, mainly BAME women to dream big, achieve greatness and inspire others. We are unique in that we take a holistic approach to joblessness, we don’t see marginalised women as burdens that must be shoehorned into a job in order to tick them off a list of names. We see […]
Is your job about to be eaten by a robot? AI is developing faster than you can say “Blade Runner” and automation is radically remodelling the way we work. Add the rising gig economy to this equation and you may be looking anxiously over your shoulder right now. Why is creativity and critical thinking more […]
Copyright © 2021 TRVST LTD. All Rights Reserved