Today is world listening day

Listening well is imperative for our relationships at work. When we listen attentively and effectively to another we’re showing them that they matter to us. That we value them and what they are saying and that they have our undivided attention.

There is an important difference between listening and hearing. Hearing simply means that we have heard the words someone else is saying. In an audiological sense, the sounds have been received by our ears and brains and it is a passive activity. We don’t have to consciously do anything. Listening is very different because is requires us to actively absorb the information being communicated in a way that affirms to the speaker that we are interested in and are understanding what they are trying to communicate.

If you’d like to become a better listener here are our top tips:

  • Are you listening to respond or listening to understand? Often we may be rehearsing our response inside our heads without actually listening. Become a better listener by quietening this inner dialogue and paying attention to what is being said.
  • Demonstrate you are listening with non-verbal communication skills. Nodding your head, changing your facial expressions and maintaining eye contact can all help to show the other person you understand and are paying attention. Staying relatively still and avoiding fidgeting and distractions can also be helpful.
  • Use small verbal signals to show you are listening. Short words and sounds such as ‘okay’ ‘yes’ ‘aha’ ‘mmhmm’ provide feedback and reassurance to the speaker and encourages them to continue.
  • Ask relevant questions and open ended questions to encourage clarification. This shows you are genuinely interested and committed to fully understanding.
  • Repeating a summary of what has been said back to the speaker is a useful technique which can be used during a conversation and to ensure your understanding is correct before you respond.

Listening well is a fundamental communication skill. It can take patience and practice but committing to becoming a better listener will improve your working relationships and encourage your colleagues and employees to talk to you more easily and honestly.