Active Listening

 Jun 07, 2018

Listening skills are part of Professional Communication. Communication is an umbrella term which involves getting a message across to others in such a way that the meaning conveyed is interpreted as the sender intended; this is done most effectively through listening, speaking, body language, tone, empathy, paraphrasing and written skills.

If we want to engage effectively with others in business, to be efficient in the way we get things done and to motivate and support our teams, then an ability to communicate is vital and listening forms one of those skills.

Active Listening, most of us know, is about processing what we have heard another person say. The key word is “processing” because it indicates that we have taken in a message, processed it for meaning, and tried to accurately interpret what the other person has said. In an ideal world, that is!

No doubt you’ve tried to have a conversation with someone who was playing computer games, or watching TV, or totally immersed in something. In my experience, it’s a thankless quest because they’re not really listening; they are hearing words but no processing has taken place. Besides being rather frustrating, it means that relationships can be harmed and no information transfer has taken place.

On the other hand, we have situations where we are possibly so enthusiastic about the message, that the moment we think we know what the speaker is trying to communicate, we jump right in before they’ve even had a chance to finish their sentence. Again, this can lead to frustration for both parties because the speaker may feel disrespected, probably won’t get the information or response they were seeking, or may end up having to repeat themselves. For the listener, the frustration is caused by having jumped in too soon, which results in them missing a vital part of the message, probably responding at a tangent, and having to reformulate their answer.

3 simple tips to learn how to actively listen

  1. Listen to hear, and not to respond”, is one of the most useful quotes that apply to Active Listening. Try to hang back and not jump in before the other person has finished speaking. It’s the respectful thing to do.

  2. Try to practice pausing briefly before you reply, and then paraphrase what you’ve interpreted the other person has said. Here’s the thing – you’ll save yourself so much time if you confirm and clarify your understanding, before you actually respond. And, you make the speaker feel heard and respected.

  3. Finally, there are times when people are emotional when they communicate. This could be something they feel passionate about, or they could be venting, or expressing any host of emotions. Try some empathetic, active listening to really show that you’ve heard, not only the message, but the feelings behind the message. This indicates that you are really in tune with what’s going on for them at an intellectual level, and validates their feelings. So a well-chosen phrase such as “I sense your frustration with…” or “I acknowledge that you are anxious for more information…” or, “I understand from what you’ve just told me, how concerned you are…” will make you a first class listener.

Do you want to improve your Listening Skills or learn more about Business Communication training? Take a look at our Professional Development courses on our website!


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About the Author:

Fee Hosking  

With over 24 years experience as a trainer, Fee is one of our most senior Professional Development trainers at New Horizons Sydney. With a professional background as a management consultant in the South African manufacturing industry, Fee brings credibility, experience and authenticity to all of the subjects that she trains. She has the ability to engage professionals from the junior to the senior level. Bringing great energy to the classroom, Fee ensures that the learning experience for all who attend is an enjoyable one, which in turn makes it a truly impactful one.

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