You may hear, but do you listen? The concept might sound irrelevant and boring. But, listening is a potent tool. More and more business owners and leaders are opening their ears to reap some serious rewards.
Active listening is basically listening to learn, as opposed to listening to answer or listening to confirm your beliefs. Listening to learn means not reacting to the information, but just taking in the information. This kind of listening can do wonders for building relationships and trust. Not to mention, you might actually learn something new if you are not rushing to respond to what you are hearing!
When you make an effort to listen at the workplace, you'll quickly realize a shift in the environment. Shortly you'll notice a boost in working relationships, productivity, and mood. While it's common for conflict to happen from communication, you can turn misunderstandings into another chance to utilize your new "active listening" skills.
What is active listening?
As a key to most conversations, active listening happens when you make a conscious effort to hear the words someone is saying and the complete message that's being communicated.
Listening is often a misunderstood skill. Some studies suggest most people believe that they have above-average listening skills; the average person only listens with about 25%. Therefore, you must carefully pay attention to the other person by limiting distractions and offering non-verbal cues.
Benefits of Active Listening
According to Faye Doell, a York University psychologist, found in 2003 that people who "listen to understand" have happier relationships with others in one study. When you create a space for open communication at the workplace, co-workers are more apt to include you on collaborative projects and come to you for ideas.
Bonus Tip: Don't think about what the person will say next, which is not active listening. It would help if you took the time to truly understand what someone is saying. What's behind their words? People you work with will notice when you do so, and soon they'll begin trusting you even more.
As Lee Iacocca, former president and CEO of Chrysler Corporation, says, "Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions."
As a leader, you can boost workplace productivity by encouraging 'active listening' on several accounts. Business owners who do not utilize this skill will often lose employees' trust, sometimes losing them. People want to feel valued at work. When they don't feel like their manager is listening, they may seek out new opportunities. Employee retention rises when a leadership team creates an atmosphere where active listening (and good communication) is valued.
It's no secret that 'active listening' boosts workplace performance. When employees can express their ideas and opinions, they feel comfortable enough to share more and more. In addition, the freedom is energizing for the team to feel productive and creative! Finally, open communication allows for fewer distractions and fewer "do-overs" in the future.
Tip: Be sure to watch for non-verbal cues, such as tone of voice and body language. Your employee might have mixed emotions when saying one thing, but their hand gestures might imply another feeling. Don't be afraid to ask for clarification.
These simple tips can help you jump on the path for better 'active listening' and reap all its benefits. Remember to allow time for people to get their words out before starting your own; notice their non-verbal clues, whether tonality or body language; encourage your employees through eye contact, focus, and responding positively (and with an open mind).
Related: Simplicity: Why Less is More at Work