Leaders listen; followers just wait until it’s their turn to talk

Mastering Active Listening

Listening, and I mean really listening is hard work. Most of the time, we’re not really listening, we’re just waiting till it’s our turn to talk. And with our own internal dialogue going ten to the dozen, it isn’t easy to concentrate on what someone else is trying to say to us.

Depending on which study is quoted we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That’s less than half of a ten minute conversation. It’s frightening to think ust how much potentially important information we miss.

By becoming a better listener, you’ll improve your ability to influence, negotiate and your productivity and help to avoid misunderstanding and conflict.

Active listening is where you make a conscious effort to hear the words people are saying and understand the complete message. You have to pay attention and stay focussed on what the other person is saying. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

How to improve your listening skills

1. Pay attention
Give the speaker your undivided attention
‘Listen’ to the speaker’s body language
Put aside distracting thoughts
If you are really struggling, repeating their words mentally as they speak can help you stay focussed.

2. Show you’re listening
Nod, smile and use of other body language and gestures to show you are listening
Make sure your posture is open and inviting – try not to fold your arms across your chest or urn your body away from the speaker
Encourage the speaker with occasional verbal signals like uh huh and yes

3. Feedback
Reflect what is being said by paraphrasing. ‘What I’m hearing is…’ or ‘It sounds like…’
Ask questions to clarify your understanding

4. Don’t interrupt and respond where it is appropriate to do so
Allow the speaker to finish
Be honest but respectful in your responses