In our busy modern world, although communication is extremely important, we tend to overlook the time it takes to make connections and the resulting lost opportunities. Active listening is a tool that can help. It makes interpersonal communication more effective and less time consuming. Good listeners are always highly valued and play a leading role in communication. Listening in communication is indispensable: it helps to create a positive first impression, build trust, resolve conflicts, influence people and obtain accurate information.
Active listening is a technique which can be learned and improved through our Genius of Communication course. It may sound strange that we need to learn how to listen because it’s just a basic skill. According to research, people on average remember from 10% to 25% of what they hear. Active listening allows you to improve on this outcome and accurately capture presented information, providing a major impact on the quality of both personal and business relationships.
Active listening involves all senses and requires full concentration. Your goal is to pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal language of the speaker in order to understand the complete message. When learning to listen, you need to concentrate and avoid distractions even if you are tired, hungry or have other important things to do. It may be helpful to make brief notes, repeat the speaker’s words and mentally picture what they are saying. To stay focused, you cannot be bored, distracted or devise counterarguments for the speaker’s point of view while listening. You also need to demonstrate your active positioning, i.e. conveying your interest to the speaker. This can be done both verbally and non-verbally: by eye contact, nodding and smiling or even by saying encouraging “hmm” sounds, which acknowledges that you are following the speaker. These signs of sincere attention make the speaker confident and distinguish you from other listeners.
To improve listening skills, you may include appropriate postures and mirroring. As well, it is also necessary to notice and interpret non-verbal clues and the body language of the speaker to help you understand their attitudes and feelings. Positive reinforcement, asking questions, clarification, reflection, summarizing or repeating last words of the speaker are some of the verbal methods of active listening. Using them will simultaneously demonstrate your attentiveness and check comprehension of what you hear. Although verbal techniques are essential for active listening, use them sparingly in that frequent interruptions or questions may irritate the speaker or put an unnecessary emphasis on parts of the message.
Learning to listen takes time, requires patience and self-awareness, but it is worth the effort. Active listening improves our ability to influence, persuade and negotiate , and does increase our productivity in all spheres of life.