In our modern, media-cluttered lives, focus and attention are valuable commodities. With all the podcasts, social media posts, memes, viral videos, and everything else we have bouncing around our headspace, giving someone our undivided attention takes a little effort. That little bit of effort can go a long way, though, especially in the workplace.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a great active listener, there is plenty you can do to work on refining your active listening skills. Our guide right here is packed with actionable tips to get you started.
In the simplest sense, active listening techniques are communication skills where someone attentively focuses on what is said to them in conversation, whether it be a face-to-face meeting or a virtual call.
Active listening requires taking intentional steps to be fully present and engaged when communicating. Essentially, you won’t mindlessly hear what is said to you, but listen to it with focus, evaluating its meaning, and then properly considering your response.
Primarily, active listening ensures more effective communication. By giving your full attention to a conversation you give yourself a better chance of understanding what is being said to you. Equally important, though, is that actively listening makes those around you feel heard and appreciated.
Good listening skills will help you throughout life, but they’re especially critical when it comes to workplace experience, for both employers and employees.
The difference an active listening exercise can make in the workplace is best expressed by the issues it can help avoid for a business. Here are the three main issues that arise from poor listening in the workplace.
There is nothing more disrespectful to an employer or disheartening for an employee than not being listened to. Poor communication in the workplace breaks down trust and creates misunderstandings. Ultimately, it’ll cause colleagues to doubt each other's competence or commitment to their job. Not to mention the severe effects of poor communication on customer and stakeholder relationships.
Misinterpreted instructions or unclear communication can waste time and effort. Employees who feel undervalued or ignored can become unmotivated and unproductive. Confusion and miscommunication cause stress and low morale in the workplace, which can lead to issues of retention.
Poor listening hinders effective collaboration and cooperation among team members. In fact, one of the best ways to increase employee productivity is to create a friendly, supportive work environment where staff feel heard.
Finally, poor communication leads to all sorts of costly errors for businesses. Miscommunication creates misunderstandings. These then lead to mistakes, confusion, and frustration. Furthermore, failing to hear ideas or feedback can result in missed innovation and improvement chances.
Crucially, small errors can have long-lasting consequences for a business. Imagine a new start-up failing to communicate to their web developers that they wish to target local New Zealand markets, and therefore require a .NZ. domain name. This one miscommunication could permanently stunt their local SEO efforts.
Conversations don’t come with calls dropping features, and not giving your full attention to workplace communication can have serious knock-on effects on a business.
To avoid these common pitfalls of poor communication, try incorporating active listening exercises into your daily routine. Here are some exercises to help you hone your hearing skills.
Reflective listening is a type of communication where the listener actively repeats back the speaker's words to confirm understanding.
Active Listening Activity - Pair up with a colleague and take turns sharing thoughts or experiences. After each person speaks, the listener should summarize or reflect back what they heard, ensuring they captured the main points accurately.
The Benefit - This not only helps you stay focused when listening, but it also communicates you understand what is being said while validating the speaker’s perspective.
Mindful silence is taking time in conversation to be deliberately silent and fully absorb what others are saying without a response. It allows a speaker to express themselves without interruption.
Active Listening Exercise - During team meetings or discussions, practice mindful silence by consciously refraining from speaking for a set period while others express their ideas. A practical way to look at this is by thinking about call queueing when you need to wait until it’s your turn before engaging in a conversation.
The Benefit - Mindful silence encourages patience and a deeper understanding of the speaker's message, and promotes respectful and empathetic communication.
Paraphrasing practice is a crucial part of reflective listening. The skill of rephrasing or restating a piece of information, text, or speech in one's own words while retaining its original meaning helps to enhance comprehension.
Active Listening Exercise - When engaged in discussions or receiving instructions, practice paraphrasing by rephrasing what you've heard in your own words and then asking, "Did I understand you correctly?"
The Benefit - Paraphrasing ensures that you've grasped the speaker's message accurately and allows for immediate clarification if necessary.
Non-verbal communication is another essential soft skill to refine. This may sound a bit unimportant, especially if you are about to start working in a remote setting where you won't necessarily be sharing space with colleagues, but understanding non-verbal cues is a useful skill to harness.
Active Listening Exercise - Pay close attention to non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice during conversations. Try to interpret these cues to gain deeper insights into the speaker's feelings and intentions.
The Benefit - It enhances your ability to empathize and connect with others, contributing to more meaningful interactions.
There are manifold benefits to having structured discussions on things like listening skills and communication styles. These sessions serve as a chance to directly address issues, but they also indirectly promote self-awareness and the development of better listening habits.
Active Listening Exercise - Schedule regular feedback sessions with colleagues to discuss communication styles and how to improve them. Encourage constructive criticism and actively listen to the feedback you receive.
The Benefit - Feedback sessions cultivate continuous improvement in the workplace. They allow you to address communication issues proactively and create a culture of accountability.
Effective communication is paramount to productivity in the workplace, and an active listening exercise is a surefire way to enhance communication skills across your entire team.
With our practical and actionable tips, you’re now well on your way to boosting workplace communication and helping your staff become active listening pros.
Practice active listening with Confetti's Communication Skills Workshop!