Listening is one of the most basic skills that you learn. But are you doing so effectively? Most studies indicate that the average person remembers between 25% and 50% of what she or he hears. Listening—not to be confused with hearing—is an active process that involves focusing on what the speaker is saying without having other thoughts encroach on the conversation. Although it might be difficult to focus on what is being said, mastering the art of actively listening is an essential skill, especially in a work environment.
This skill not only benefits the employees, but the entire business as well. Being a person who is great at listening indicates strength and leadership skills. It also conveys that the individual cares and is trying to connect and engage with others. Here are four simple ways to help you with improving your listening skills:
- Minimize distractions. Try to focus on the speaker and what they are saying. Unless you are waiting on an important call, switch your cellphone “off” or on “silent” to give the speaker your undivided attention.
- Pay attention to the speaker. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact to show that you are actively listening. Nonverbal communication should indicate your interest. Try to tune out anything that might divert your attention so you can focus on what is being said.
- Don’t interrupt. Let the speaker finish what he/she is saying and save questions or comments for later. If you cut them off, be aware of it and apologize. This can be difficult for some people especially those who want to respond so they don’t forget. Also, if you don’t understand something, be sure to ask for clarification later.
- Provide feedback. Give feedback with verbal responses or with nonverbal responses such as a nod or smile.
Some benefits associated with actively listening includes building trust, improving teamwork, and developing relationships with employees. Also, when you try to understand the people you work with, morale and productivity can significantly increase. The unwillingness to listen to others has an adverse effect which results in conflict within the workplace. This mainly occurs when people feel misunderstood or mistreated by the people they work for or alongside of. Mastering this skill isn’t easy, but when it becomes second nature, it deepens your relationship to others and allows you to make fewer mistakes.