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Improve our listening skills

Active listening for stronger connections • 3 min read

 

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management stated that "while most people are hired for their technical abilities, their soft skills (like listening and communication) give them career durability."


Makes sense when a whopping 85% of what we know, we’ve actually learned through listening.

 

Introduction

In a high-speed world where we’re constantly being overwhelmed with information, it can be increasingly difficult to take the time to really listen to one another — to really absorb what’s being said to us.


In this article, we’ll take a look at how genuine listening can build working relationships through hearing, understanding, and responding to other people’s perspectives and concerns —guaranteeing that all team members feel heard and valued.


Listening with intention

We can often feel like we’re constantly rushing to meet deadlines, or running from one meeting to the next. Even so, it’s vital that we put our agendas on hold to communicate, learn, and guide our team members through actively listening.


This means we don’t purely listen to respond; we listen to understand.


Active listening

We too often listen to hear what we want to hear, but to truly listen to others, it takes a great deal of self-awareness and practice.


When we passively listen, we listen without reacting. When we actively listen, people will be more motivated to communicate with us.


Focus entirely on the speaker

Ever talked to someone whose eyes constantly scan the room while talking to you? Disconcerting, isn’t it? It can feel like you’re trying to hit a moving target.


Sure — sometimes it can come down to social awkwardness. However, eye contact is considered by many to be a minimal sign of respect. This is why removing all distractions and turning to face our audience is key to meaningful engagement.


If you lose your footing during the conversation (perhaps a lapse of attention or comprehension), it’s perfectly fine to say that you didn’t quite get it, and ask the person to repeat themselves, or ask questions to clarify what’s been said.


More and more people are also discovering in adulthood that they have undiagnosed attention or information-processing that can impair listening ability.


So, if you feel like you have “subpar” listening skills, let the other person know at the outset, asking for their patience and understanding. This can help stave off any misunderstandings or assumptions that you might just be lacking respect for the other person.

 

Key takeaways

  1. Active listening means that we listen to understand, while responding and reacting in meaningful ways. It is key to building relationships as team members feel increasingly heard and valued.

  2. Let go of your agenda and focus entirely on the speaker while remembering your non-verbal cues, such as: turning to face the speaker; maintaining eye contact; and perhaps occasionally nodding to show that you’re following what’s being said.

  3. If you feel you have “subpar” listening skills stemming from shyness or other attention deficit issues, let the other person know to avoid any misunderstanding.

 

Think big. act small


For effective collaboration and stronger relationships, why not close your laptop in your next meeting to truly listen, connect, and understand the context — resisting the temptation to respond with generic answers.


By actively listening, we’re not only listening to what others are saying, but how they’re saying it — and what they’re not saying, like when they pause or get energised about specific topics.

 

Content sources

  • Drive, Daniel Pink

  • Forbes, 2020, Councils Member Experts Panel, ‘15 Ways That Leaders Can Sharpen Their Active Listening Skills’

  • Forbes, 2021, Ray Makela, ‘Four Behaviors To Make Active Listening Your Superpower In Sales’

  • Forbes, 2022, Heather Cherry, ‘How To Use The Power Of Active Listening To Boost Your Career Now’

  • Forbes, 2012, Dianne Schilling, ‘10 Steps To Effective Listening Forbes’

  • Harvard Business Review, 2016, Melissa Daimler, ‘Listening Is an Overlooked Leadership Tool’

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