So let’s look at Active Listening. Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. Your ability to listen has a major impact on how you succeed in your job, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
- We listen to find out information.
- We listen to make sense of things around us.
- We listen for pleasure.
- We listen to learn.
So if we need to do a lot of listening, you’d think we’d be good at it! In fact most of us aren’t. Various studies show that we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to another person for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is a grim statistic!
Of course, if we reverse this statistic, it shows that when you are being presented with information you aren’t hearing the whole message either. If you don’t pick up the essential information in the 25 – 50% you did hear then the other person’s time has been wasted.
So, we could improve our listening skills and by becoming a better listener, you will improve your effectiveness, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. Moreover, you should be able to avoid conflict and misunderstanding. Skills that are needed for workplace success!
One way to improve your listening skills is to practice active listening. This is a process where you make a specific effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.
How do you do this? You need to pay attention to the other person very carefully. You must not become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or pre-judge and form responses that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.
To improve your listening skills, you need to give the other person feedback; let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying. To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying. You wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing to speak. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it’s something you need to avoid.
Feedback can be a simple nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.” You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Excessive nodding or “uh huhing” can, however, be distracting to the speaker. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention and not let your mind wander. While nodding and “uh huhing” says you’re interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message as well and is an appropriate response.
To summarize there are a number of elements of active listening. They are:
- Pay attention
- Show that you are listening
- Provide feedback
- Defer judgment
- Respond Appropriately