Most people believe that communication is only about speaking. But one of the most underrated communication skills is listening.

Active listening is just as important for clear communication as speaking is.

However, listening is not the same thing as hearing. Active listening means concentrating on what a speaker is saying rather than just passively hearing them.

It also involves paying attention to nonverbal cues such as tone, body language, and facial expressions.

You must understand the importance of active listening skills in your professional as well as personal life. Most people limit attentive listening to formal meetings but you should use this skill in all conversations for more effective communication.

Most people believe that communication is only about speaking. But one of the most underrated communication skills is listening.

What is active listening?

We know the common meaning of active listening is fully concentrating on what the speaker says rather than just passively ‘hearing’ them.

But there’s more. Listening actively is also about patience and not interrupting a speaker.

You will notice many examples of active listening around you. Students listen actively to their teachers. Employees listen to their leaders. And leaders listen to their employees.

Importance of active listening

Did you know that about 70-80% of our working hours are spent in communication of some form? The average person spends only 30% of their time talking and 45% listening.

This underscores the importance of developing active listening skills.  Here are some tips for effective listening to make your communication more effective.

Tips for effective listening

Harappa’s Listening Actively course delves into the importance of active listening to improve one’s communication. The HARP Equation in the course focuses on developing the process through Hearing, Attention, Response, and Perception.

However, while you are exploring or have just joined the course, here are some tips for effective listening to get you started:

  1. Pay attention:

‘The first step to listening actively is paying attention to the speaker. And as management guru Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

Here are some ways in which you can give your undivided attention to the speaker:

  • Look at the speaker directly
  • Stop other activities while you are listening
  • Don’t prepare a response or a rebuttal in your mind as you listen
  • Avoid being distracted by external factors such as noise or side conversations
  • Pay attention to the speaker’s body language
  1. Show that you are listening:

Sometimes even though you give your undivided attention to the person speaking, they look doubtful or ask if you’ve understood what they said.  This is because they don’t see any sign of attentive listening.

Your active listening skills must be visible to the speaker. How do you convey your interest? It’s simple. You can use nonverbal signs such as nodding your head or smiling whenever appropriate. Even your posture says a lot about your interest and attentiveness.

So next time you are all ears to someone, try to let them know through your gestures and body language:

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker
  • Use body language to show interest–sit straight or lean in, and stop fidgeting
  • Nod, smile, and use appropriate facial expressions
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with comments such as ‘yes’ or ‘hmm’
  1. Ask questions and give feedback:

People sometimes listen without understanding what the speaker is saying. Always engage with the speaker by sharing your feedback or asking questions for effective communication.

  • Ask thoughtful questions to clarify your doubts
  • Try to summarize the speaker’s points to confirm if you understood them clearly
  • Reflect on what the speaker has said by paraphrasing
  1. Respond Appropriately:

The soul of active listening lies in respecting the speaker and understanding what is being said. Those who listen with genuine interest don’t have reactions. They formulate appropriate responses that enrich the conversation. A well-thought-out and respectful response shows that you have listened closely to the speaker. It encourages them to share more information.

So, how can you ensure that you respond and not react? Here are a few tips:

  • Reflect on what you have heard instead of reacting immediately
  • Be open, honest, and candid when you respond
  • Do not attack the speaker or challenge them rudely
  • Be respectful yet assertive with your opinions

Examples of active listening

Now that you have tips for effective listening at hand, let’s look at some real-life examples of active listening:

  1. Demonstrating concern:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made working from home the new normal. But remote working is a challenge for team leaders and managers as communication and coordination are tough.

You can use your active listening skills to improve communication between colleagues. You can connect with your colleagues in one-on-one chats to understand how they have been coping with the challenges of the lockdown. Make sure to listen attentively when they share their experiences.

  1. Summarizing and paraphrasing:

Working from home means that work-related meetings, conferences, and presentations have all shifted online. This has made effective communication more challenging and attentive listening has become essential. This is an opportunity to improve your active listening skills.

Paraphrasing what the speaker said after they finish speaking is a good technique to improve communication. Take mental notes as you listen. Then, paraphrase what they said and summarize their main points. You can begin your summary by saying “So, you’re saying that …” or “You think that we need to …”.

  1. Asking open-ended questions:

This is a common technique of active listening that you can use in your day-to-day life. Ask open-ended questions to encourage the speaker to share more. You can also ask specific questions to clarify details. That will show that you have been listening with the intent of understanding.

Whether a colleague is describing an incident, or someone is complaining about something, or even sharing good news, make sure you ask questions that propel the conversation forward.

With the new normal of working from home during the pandemic, it is sometimes difficult to stay completely focused on virtual conversations. Whether it’s a brief online meeting or lengthy conference calls, one is bound to get distracted. Now is the time to work on your listening skills.

Join Harappa’s Listening Actively course and add one more essential soft skill that most employers seek. After all, whether it is in your professional or personal life, your success will lie more in your ability to be a good listener than a good speaker.

Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics related to the Communicate habit such as the Importance of Communication, Process of Communication, What is Report Writing and Writing Skills.

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