Listening is an essential skill to have, but also one of the most difficult to master. It should be simple, but so often we think about what we will say next in a conversation rather than actually listening to what our counterpart is saying.
Listening skills have a direct impact on effectiveness at work. They also affect relationships with co-workers and managers. Diversity in the workplace often makes listening more difficult, but also more important.
Successful communication establishes common ground and understanding between people, even if that understanding is agreeing to disagree. Active listening is a structured communication technique that can help minimize misunderstandings, promote cooperation, and improve team relationships.
Active Listening Basic Steps
- The speaker talks to the listener.
- The listener listens without speaking and gives the speaker his or her full attention without distraction.
- Once the speaker is done, the listener tells the speaker what he or she heard by restating the information in his or her own words. This confirms understanding between the speaker and listener.
- Then the roles switch and the listener becomes the speaker and the speaker becomes the listener.
Elements of Active Listening
- Comprehension: Determine the meaning of statements using context.
- Retention: Remember what is said. While you listen to the speaker you place pieces of the conversation that you label as important in a box. Remembering every detail is impossible, and sometimes what you believe is important will not match the speaker's intentions. The key to retention is restating back to the speaker and confirming the intent.
- Response: During the conversation it is important to give non-verbal responses that show the speaker that you are listening. The speaker uses these cues to determine if the message is being accurately received and he or she can make adjustments if necessary. After the speaker is done, paraphrase what you heard and come to a shared understanding.