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ACTIVE LISTENING - THE KEY TO BETTER COMMUNICATION

By becoming a better listener you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What's more, you'll avoid conflict and misunderstandings.


Two men chatting

How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, productivity and the quality of your relationships with others.


Listening is the most important part of communication. It’s not always easy to do,

but it is an easy skill learn.

​Why is listening so important?

  • People spend 70-80% of their day communicating and about 55% of their day listening.

  • The most successful leaders are those that do more listening than talking.

  • On average we only remember 25- 50% of what we hear.

  • Listening helps to build trust, mutual understanding and a culture of respect - leading to decreased workplace conflict and increased productivity.


The six key skills for active listening are:

1. Pay attention


Give the speaker your undivided attention. Don’t daydream - put aside distracting thoughts including thinking about how you are going to respond.


2. Show that you are listening


Nod occasionally, smile and use other facial expressions, and encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or "uh-huh”.


If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them. This will reinforce their message and help you to stay focused.


3. Don’t judge or interrupt


Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message, and can shut down the conversation.

  • Keep an open mind – don’t judge or criticise.

  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.

  • Don't interrupt with counter arguments.


4. Reflect what you are hearing


Our own personal filters, assumptions, judgements and beliefs can distort what we hear.

Reflecting shows that you are paying attention and helps everyone stay on the same page.

Reflect on what is being said by paraphrasing “What I am hearing is…” and “Sounds to me like you are saying…”

If you hear, I don’t know what else to do!” or "I’m tired of bailing the team out at the last minute,”  try helping the speaker label their feelings: “Sounds like you’re feeling pretty frustrated and stuck.”


5. Clarify


Ask don’t tell.

Don’t be shy to ask questions. If the issue is unclear, or there is confusion, ask questions to clarify. For example, ask “Let me see if I am clear. Are you talking about…?”, “What do you mean when you say…?” or"Back up a second. I didn't understand what you just said about…?"


Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended, clarifying or probing questions – this helps focus on understanding the problem. Ask “What do you think about …?”  or“Tell me about …?”and “Will you further explain / describe …?”


6. Respond appropriately & summarise


Be respectful of the speaker’s opinions – even if you don’t agree.

When responding, be candid, open and honest in your response, sharing your opinions respectfully.

By understanding one another’s views you can work towards a shared goal.


At the end of the conversation summarise and restate the key themes you have heard. This provides clarity on mutual responsibilities and follow-up.

Say something like, “Let me summarise to check my understanding…”, “So, going forward we agree to…x, y, z, did I get this right?”


 
Want to know more about how to communicate with impact?

Take a look at the guides we've made for you from the supervisor's communication toolbox.




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