When it comes down to it, listening and hearing are two different things. Your body naturally hears sounds, but it requires mental action to listen for understanding. Taking it a step further, you can listen passively without attention — or you can listen actively, which is the basis of relationship-building. There’s a big difference between active vs. passive listening. So why is active listening important? From professional settings to personal relationships, communication requires active listening.
For this reason, we will break down what active listening means exactly, as well as ways to hone in on the skill.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening is a soft skill that directs the focus from what’s in your head to the words coming from the outside. By being able to focus on what another person is saying, you can understand needs and information more accurately.
Active listening requires the following:
- Not interrupting
- Repeating what you hear back
- Picking up on body language
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Why Active Listens Matters for Your Success
When it comes to your success in education and the workplace, it will require active listening. This is
because it takes attention to both the big picture and small details to learn. When you actively listen, your employer can see the difference in your responses and work that follows.
Perhaps the first place in your career where active listening plays a large role is in the interview process. By paying close attention and making eye contact with the interviewer, you can demonstrate that you are interested in the position, can help problem-solve, and can work well in a team.
Active Listening Techniques
Here are 8 examples of active listening techniques and responses. These can be used in the interview process, as well as on the job.
1. Build Trust
One example is when an interviewer explains challenges that the business is facing, you can respond with something like “How can I help?” or “How is success measured?”
2. Demonstrate Concern
When listening to the challenges that a potential employer divulges, you should express your concern. Some responses that work include, “I think I can help solve this by XX.” Or, “I understand this is a difficult challenge to face. How is the team responding?”
3. Non-Verbal Cues
Not everything involved in active listening requires words. A very important piece of active listening is body language. By nodding your head, sharing eye contact, and even smiling, you can say a lot without saying anything at all.
4. Waiting To Talk
In any setting, it’s considered rude to interrupt people. It’s better to wait to talk after you’ve heard everything and then share your opinions.
5. Asking Questions
On the job and in interviews, asking questions expresses your level of curiosity and care. You can ask technical questions like, “What are the next steps?” or “Should I reach out to you or wait to hear back?”
6. Share Similar Experiences
By listening and then sharing similar situations with those you are speaking to, you can connect on a deeper level and leave a lasting impression.
It’s a great technique to rephrase what you hear in your own words to both show that you’re listening, remember details, and also make sure that you’re properly understanding the needs of an employer. For example, you can try something like, “So, correct me if I’m wrong, but what you’re saying is that scaling is your biggest priority right now.”
8. Brief Affirmations
From the interview to working on the job, brief affirmations allow someone to know where you stand. If your boss has taken the time to speak with you, you can mention your gratitude in a brief affirmation like, “I appreciate your time. Thank you.”
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The Importance of Active Listening
In communication, listening is often overlooked. Most people are so focused on speaking and sharing their own experiences that they may forget that listening is a skill that requires practice and constant attention.
Think about this. When you introduce yourself to a new person, you probably have experienced asking them their name. Then, while they are telling you their name, you’re thinking about saying your name next. You haven’t really listened to their name, and now, you’re embarrassed to ask again.
This is the problem so many people face in communication. Our minds can easily wander into our own heads and imagine what’s coming next or fall back into the past. That’s why active listening is so important. It’s the only way to stay truly present in communication.
To stay truly present in our current situation, most people have to practice this as both a reminder and a skill. Most people get caught in passive listening instead of active listening. This means they aren’t really listening. While they may not be interrupting, they are not providing feedback or asking questions to really understand the speaker.
The Benefits of Active Listening
On the other hand, active listening shows that you’ve been focused on what the other person is saying because you ask relevant questions to go deeper into the conversation. Active listening helps to demonstrate and build relationships.
Empathy and Compassion
Active listening is really important when dealing with hardships, problems, and sadness. For example, health care professionals like therapists are a good example of how active listening can showcase compassion. When someone is facing a hard time, they need to know that the person they are sharing their vulnerability with is actually listening to them and understanding their needs.
Active listening is very important in the workplace and within educational settings. To be able to properly problem-solve and achieve outcomes that all parties feel satisfied with, you need to actively listen to the problems that are being faced. That way, you can address all needs to find the optimal solution.
The Bottom Line
Our bodies are designed to hear sounds and words. However, it takes our attention and practice to actively listen to someone.
When it comes to building a successful career, it doesn’t happen in isolation. This means that you’ll have to master the art of active listening.
The importance of listening does not go unnoticed in any part of your life. It’s something you begin practicing as a child and do throughout your life in every type of relationship you build. Good communication skills are built on the trifecta of honing your speaking skills, writing skills, and listening skills.