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Active listening

Active listening is more than just hearing someone speak. It’s a conscious effort to understand the entire meaning of the message being communicated. You listen with all your senses and give all your attention to the person speaking.

The importance of active listening in the workplace:

  1. Building trust – through honesty, support, and non-judgmental communication
  2. Productivity – ensuring employees feel heard and valued
  3. Resolving conflicts – by helping to recognise and appreciate others perspectives

How to practice active listening

Skill #1: Pay attention

Pay attention to both the verbal and non-verbal cues presented. Allow the speaker to finish their sentences, don’t cut in! Pay attention to your own body language.
You can express interest and engagement by:
  • Nodding occasionally
  • Smiling
  • Maintaining an open posture and good eye contact
  • Encouraging the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes”, “I see” and “uh huh”

Skill #2: Withhold judgement

Active listening requires an open mind. Be open to new ideas and perspectives. Good listeners will have strong views, but they suspend immediate judgements and criticisms.

Skill #3: Reflect

Don’t assume that the speaker knows you’re engaged and paying attention. Reflecting is an active listening technique that indicates you are on the same page, and you understand the issue. You can use reflecting comments such as “It sounds like you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed at the moment”.

You can also paraphrase what they are saying by restating and summarising the key points they have made.

Skill #4: Clarify

If anything is unclear or ambiguous, make sure you ask questions to help your understanding. Clarifying and probing questions are a critical active listening skill, for example:

  • Clarifying questions - “Sorry I’m not sure I understand completely, do you mind explaining that again?”
  • Probing questions – “Have you asked how the rest of the team feels about it?”

Skill #5: Summarise

Restate the key themes as the conversation progresses.  This will confirm and solidify your grasp of the other person’s point of view. Doing this will ensure both parties are clear on the mutual responsibilities and the follow-up steps.

Skill #6: Share

Once you have listened and understood what the speaker has to say, it’s time to introduce your own ideas, feelings, and suggestions. This is the time to problem solve and set clear objectives to move forward.

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