As we are witnessing unprecedented technology innovations and change in the way business is being conducted, the importance of communication skills is greater than ever. Despite high-stress and high-speed jobs (and life), we give less significance to listening actively while interacting with the world. Nowadays, genuine active listening is a rare personal characteristic. However, mastering it can enrich our lives by making our relationships less complicated, jobs less stressful, and helping us understand maturely many day-to-day situations and challenges.
At home, effective listening enables us to develop meaningful and fulfilling relationships with kids, partners, parents, etc. At work, it generates less wasted time and fewer errors. It can be your ladder to building happy relationships and successful careers. Corporate leaders and managers confirm that listening is a prime factor for achieving influencing power and appearing charismatic. They actively analyse the information they receive to get fresh perspectives and insights. However, skills like active listening often get neglected in day-to-day interactions.
When being asked about views on their leaders and reporting managers, corporate executives commonly emphasised improving listening skills. Following are one of the common feedbacks they gave:
I wish my manager would develop good listening skills.
Corporate leaders need to listen to our perspective and suggestions.
The supplier doesn’t understand our needs.
The solution doesn’t fit the end users’ needs.
Active listening is not a natural talent. However, it can be learned with practice. It doesn’t only enhance leadership capabilities but also helps build business and personal relationships. It guides you towards an ideal pathway for achieving professional as well as personal success.
Active listening – Key Attributes
Research carried out in the similar field narrates that active listeners exhibit some common attributes that make them effective and highly successful in their careers. Listening with respect, challenging assumptions and remaining quiet are some of such critical attributes.
Listen With Respect
Leaders and managers should reflect the behaviour of respectfulness towards their colleagues’ potential to provide inspiring ideas and valuable insights. Influential listeners possess the required know-how to formulate solutions to existing challenges. They listen respectfully to their conversation partners and assist them to extract meaningful information.
In order to make conversation productive, managers and salespeople often follow 80:20 rule, which means letting the other person speak for 80% of the conversation time; 20% of the time is adequate enough for them to analyse information, and respond in an intelligent manner.
A great listener understands and challenges the assumptions that are being raised at the end of every conversation. We should not stop at the verbal communication, but we must reach for the unexpressed message, the real needs that are behind the words. Many assumptions are not being communicated directly when we listen carefully; with active listening, we can capture them and find appropriate solutions.
Roadmap to Enhancing Active Listening
Concentration is one primary requirement for learning active listening skills, and for transforming it into a habit. When one learns and practices active listening with dedication, its benefits will get reflected in healthy relationships, career growth, and in many day-to-day situations.
Step 1: Focus
Whenever you indulge in any conversation, do not let your mind be distracted. Keep unrelated issues at bay. It will assist you in enhancing focus on what is being communicated.
Step 2: Body Language
Your position is also important while indulging in a conversation, and that’s why it is always better to face the speaker in a standing or sitting position. That way, you will reflect a positive body language to the speaker. Also, maintain eye contact in a non-intimidating manner.
Step 3: Setting
Environmental disturbance should be kept to the minimum for effective listening and responding. Make sure not to get distracted by background music or any unwanted noise. Keep electronic devices that could interrupt your conversation away.
Step 4: Support
Encouraging the speaker is very necessary, and that’s why successful corporate managers and leaders encourage the other person with affirmations and nods. It is an affirmative sign that you are interested in what is being spoken.
Step 5: Timing
Maintain your concentration and do not try to formulate a response while the other person is still talking as it will make you miss out on what is currently being spoken. Take time to analyse information after your conversation is over.
Step 6: Analyse
Observe body language of the speaker; it will give you many clues on his/her emotional state or stress level.
Step 7: Ask
While the urge to interrupt becomes prominent, you must resist it and wait for the speaker to pause or complete his/her point. It is appropriate to ask the relevant question or comment when the speaker pauses for a second. It will reflect that you are taking interest and understanding the conversation.
Step 8: Interact
After asking the relevant question or comment, continue listening actively as the speaker replies – it will enable you to gain valuable insights and give you sufficient understanding to offer required advice or your point of view. By doing so you will avoid misunderstandings, but you will also see that people tend to open up and communicate more information and details. In conflict situations, if people feel that their opponent is attuned to their concerns and wants to listen, they are more likely to explain in detail how they feel and why.
This approach will generate sympathy and empathy from your counterpart, helping you establish positive and lasting relationships.