Improve Your Listening Skills


The significance of effective communication in the workplace cannot be overstated, yet we often focus only on one aspect: expressing our ideas. The other crucial half of communication, listening, is frequently overlooked so we have to dedicate time and attention to improve our listening skills.

Communication is a two-way street, and listening is as pivotal to the process as speaking. Indeed, active listening goes beyond mere nods and affirmations. Experts often divide active listening into three core components: attending, following, and reflecting skills.

Mastering Attending Skills

Attending skills underscore the non-verbal facet of listening. They are the cues you give to demonstrate that you’re engrossed in the conversation without explicitly saying so. Your non-verbal behavior can significantly affect the speaker’s comfort level and perception of your engagement.

When listening, maintain an attentive posture and minimize restless movements. Fidgeting or finger-tapping might suggest disinterest or even make the speaker uneasy. Maintain eye contact with the speaker; listeners who look away more than 20% of the time may appear uninvolved.

To fully engage with the speaker, eliminate distractions, especially cellphones. This might seem obvious, but it’s a bad habit most of us have developed. Put your phone away, clear your work desk, and dedicate your attention to the speaker.

Honing Following Skills

Effective listening transcends appearing attentive; it involves actively interacting with the speaker, which is where following skills come into play.

Initiate conversations in a way that makes the speaker feel at ease and assured of your readiness to listen. Your opening can range from casual, such as, “Hey, what’s up?” to more formal, like “I’d like to hear your thoughts.” Complement your opening statement with welcoming non-verbal gestures such as a smile or by leaning forward.

Encourage the speaker to continue by using your following skills subtly. Simple verbal affirmations like “I see,” or non-verbal cues such as nodding can show your engagement without being distracting.

Inquiring with relevant follow-up questions can also demonstrate your interest. Yet, they should be used sparingly and must align with the speaker’s narrative.

A key part of active listening is the ability to remain silent, allowing the speaker to express themselves fully. While you might be tempted to interject, refrain from doing so as it could derail the conversation.

Developing Reflecting Skills

Reflecting skills help you verify your understanding of the speaker’s message and reassure them of your comprehension. It helps prevent miscommunication or loss of key points.

Paraphrasing is a valuable technique in this regard. Restating the speaker’s message in your words helps both you and the speaker confirm the accuracy of your understanding. Accurate paraphrasing also aids in identifying key concepts and retaining information post-conversation.

In conclusion, improving your listening skills can significantly enhance your communication effectiveness, both within and outside the workplace. By developing your attending, following, and reflecting skills, you can become a more adept and empathetic listener. If you wonder whether or not you’re a good listener get some feedback from your coworkers through a 360 degree assessment.