Active listening is taking onboard what someone is saying mindfully, observing their body language and being empathetic, even when giving feedback. Here are some tips to help you actively listen.
1. Pay attention
Seems obvious, but it’s an important one. Don’t let your mind wander all over the place and not really hear what someone is saying. Stay engaged and keep those nagging thoughts about that email you need to send at bay.
2. Get clarification
If you’re unsure what someone means, ask questions to get clarification. This will ensure you stay engaged, rather than being stuck thinking about what they said 5 minutes ago. This also gives them the chance to expand on areas that they may’ve brushed over.
3. Ask probing questions
Don’t ask questions that are close-ended and won’t allow the other person to elaborate. Instead, ask open ended questions that allow them to expand on what they’re saying and help you understand it further.
4. Summarise what they’ve said
Summarising what they’ve said serves two purposes. It makes them feel heard and understood, as well as ensuring you’ve understood correctly.
5. Be empathetic
Be aware of the other person’s feelings and their experience. This is going to vary in the workplace depending on what’s being discussed, but we should always keep in mind that everyone reacts differently and empathy can help us understand.
And here are a few things you should avoid:
Not keeping an open mind
Focusing on the person rather than the message
Interrupting the other person
Getting distracted (especially by your phone, put it away!)
Next time a colleague needs to have a chat, make sure you do your best to actively listen and make them feel heard. Don’t dismiss what they say and then later find you can’t recall what they were talking about.