Active Listening in the Workplace

By Karen Layman, aka Karen active listening in the workplace

Active listening is an important skill to practice in any aspect of life, but especially in the workplace. It’s a valuable part of communication and if your company isn’t practicing it, it’s something you should consider. Here’s what you should know about active listening in the workplace:

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a type of communication that ensures that the listener isn’t just hearing the words from a speaker but is also working to comprehend. This usually includes understanding the meaning and intention of those words. Essentially, it means you are participating in the conversation, not just passively sitting back.

Why is Active Listening Important?

Active listening is an important skill for all areas of life, but it’s very helpful in the workplace. This type of communication keeps all parties involved in the discussion, meaning everyone hopefully is on the same page.

Active listening is not limited to in-person communication, either. Practicing active and open communication is one of the best ways companies can support employees working from home. Employees working from home may feel isolated, so make sure they know you are reachable and are listening to them when you’re in communication.

When everyone is on the same page, miscommunication and mistakes are less likely. This is why active listening is a particularly useful conference call tip because multiple parties are often involved and some people or ideas can get overlooked.

Practicing active listening is also important because it can help people feel valued and listened to. When employees feel valued, they are much more likely to stay committed to their jobs and feel a strong bond with other employees. This fosters a healthy work environment that values open communication and teamwork.

Active Listening Techniques to Try in the Workplace

If you’d like to get better at active listening, here are some techniques to try:

1. Try to Limit Distractions

When you’re distracted during a conversation, you are not practicing active listening. Not only is this disrespectful to the other person, but it also means you could be missing valuable information.

Put your phone down, set your computer to a screen saver, and if possible, close the door to the meeting space. By limiting noise and other distractions, you’re demonstrating you are fully prepared to listen and actively participate in a discussion.

Active listening can help in productive brainstorming sessions. When brainstorming ideas, you need full concentration and quiet. This is why limiting distractions is one of the most useful tips to improve your brainstorming sessions.

2. Pay Attention to Body Language

Being able to read body language is an often overlooked part of communication. Take notice of the other person’s demeanor. Are they talking extra fast? This could be a sign of anxiety. If they’re talking slowly, they could be trying to figure out how best to word their sentences.

It’s important that your body language conveys the right message, too. If you appear closed off, you might be unwittingly communicating hostility or at the very least, indifference. To show you’re listening, a slow nod and smile can convey interest. Remember not to cross your arms! While this can feel comfortable, it can communicate a closed-off attitude.

3. Ask Follow-up Questions

It’s important to show that you’ve been listening and comprehending the conversation at hand. An easy way to do that is by asking follow-up questions. If you’re unsure what to ask, reflect on the conversation. Was there any part of the discussion that you’d like clarified? Asking for clarification shows that you were listening and wanted to hear more.

Be sure to ask thoughtful and open-ended questions. These questions discourage one-word answers and move the conversation forward. These questions can also help the other person fill in more details. This can be helpful if they’ve forgotten any information without shaming them.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking can be helpful in active listening. Not only does it keep you engaged in the conversation, but it also gives you information in writing. This is especially helpful if somebody is explaining something to you or if the conversation needs follow-up.

Just remember to look up while taking notes every so often. This communicates to the other person that you are still engaged with what they’re saying.
5. Don’t Analyze Until Later

While it can be tempting to analyze what the other person is saying, it’s really important not to do that until later. If you attempt to analyze at that moment, you most likely will miss something important that can add context to the conversation.

4 Benefits of Active Listening in the Workplace

Active listening is an important technique in the workplace. Here are a few benefits of active listening in the workplace:

1. It Builds Trust

Trust is important. People want to feel like they are being heard, and when they are not, they tend to not trust others. If employees feel like they can’t trust their coworkers or superiors, it can create an unhealthy and toxic environment.

By practicing active listening, you start to rebuild trust. Your employees or coworkers will know that they’re being heard. This can help build stronger working relationships and create a healthier work environment.

2. Active Listening Can Help You Catch Important Details

Have you ever missed an important detail or even a large chunk of information because you were distracted when someone else was talking? When you practice active listening, your full attention is directed at the other person.

Active listening can help you catch those important details and information. This can prevent miscommunication and frustration, barriers to a healthy work environment.

3. Active Listening Can Help Resolve Conflict

When conflicts arise, it’s important to utilize active listening. Sometimes it’s hard to see the other person’s point of view when tensions arise.

Active listening forces you to hear the other person’s perspective. When you do that, the other person feels respected and you may be able to find a resolution more easily.

4. It Can Improve Customer Relationships

Active listening isn’t just important for employee relationships. It’s an important technique to practice when communicating with customers and prospective customers. Not listening to your customers or potential customers may be one of the ways your business is annoying your potential customers without realizing it.

Active listening can help improve your customer service, too. Poor customer service is often a reason customers may take their business elsewhere. If a customer has a complaint, listen and take notes. Then, use that information to fix the problem.

When a customer truly feels heard and then sees results from their feedback, it builds trust between them and your company. It also can give you insight into improving your product or service. Listening to your customer base can help your company grow to fit customer needs. Plus, it can build customer loyalty.

If you want to create an open line of communication, consider using social media. Allow customers to communicate with you through comments and direct messages. However, you need to be ready to be responsive. Engaging with your followers and customers is one of the things your business should be doing on social media since it builds connections with your customer base.

Active listening in the workplace is an important practice to implement. It will require practice and intentionality, but you will see improvements in communication in your workplace!

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