As the name suggests, active listening is making the effort to ‘properly’ listen to someone. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how difficult some people find it – it’s not a skill that comes natural to many.
Why then? Why is this, seemingly simple, skill so hard to come by? As per a famous ‘Fight Club’ scene, where the main character is pretending to be chronically ill: “when people think you’re dying, they really, really listen to you… instead of waiting for their turn to speak.” This quote captures the essence of this article perfectly. The main character (the narrator, no spoilers) is prepared to fake a terminal illness in order to get the ‘active listening treatment.’ You, like me, want to be listened to – especially in the workplace, although perhaps not enough to fake an illness, like the narrator.
The importance of active listening cannot be exaggerated. There are endless benefits of being both verbally and visually active in your listening. In a world of ignorance, be the difference you want to see, be someone who listens.
So much hinges on the ability to listen effectively, especially at work. One of these things is building rapport and trust with employees and clients. Having a back and forth with someone which doesn’t have interruptions, each participant having their say and getting their point heard, leaves both parties with an overwhelming sense of fulfilment. This sense of fulfilment is central to the foundations we build our relationships upon.
If you’re in management, chances are that you’ve came across this before. Practicing and implementing active listening into your management style can be the difference between you and your team being successful or not. Having a manager who really listens to your queries and responds in a concise and helpful manner is priceless, instantly allowing you both to build rapport and further a work relationship. An integral part of being a good manager is seeming approachable to your team and beyond, being an active listener makes people believe you are a person who they can approach when they have an issue.
This active listening element, when implemented effectively, can be the catalyst to building respect with employees. Having a mutual level of respect when communicating can increase productivity within the workforce and make people believe that their opinions are listened to, and that they are an integral part of your team.
It’s also important to mention that even if you aren’t in management, this skill helps you develop relationships and build respect in all walks of life – everyone likes to be listened to, and everyone likes somebody who listens.
If you’re wondering how to start putting active listening into practice, my advice is to slow down. Too many people are in a rush in every conversation they participate in, really listen with the intent of understanding rather than listening with the intent to reply. Furthermore, physically show whoever it is that you’re listening – no I don’t mean intense, creepy eye contact or repeating every word they say; just be quiet when they’re talking, don’t interrupt, nod if you agree and really try to respond rather than just making another point.
What are you waiting for? Get started today!