How to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

In the 4th grade, my teacher had this technique to quiet us down and pay attention. It was kind of like ‘attention’ but for elementary school kids. If we were talking, she would just say “active listening position!” and we would all stop talking, fold our hands on the desk, and sit up straight. It was brilliant. 

Have you ever tried to ACTIVELY listen? It’s actually a lot harder to do than you would think. And when was the last time you remember actively listen to someone or something?

It’s no surprise that 74% of companies value listening skills. The benefits of good listening habits include customer satisfaction and greater productivity with fewer mistakes. 

Here are some ways to improve your active listening skills for better performance at work! 

1. Get Rid of Any Distractions

It’s 2019, we have watches that tell us when we receive a text to our cell phones and Google calendar notifications that pop up on our desktops. Distractions are inevitable and are bound to happen, but you can alleviate some of those distractions to help keep you focused on actively listening to the speaker.

One thing you can do is put your cell phone on airplane mode. You won’t get any texts, Twitter updates, or Candy Crush notifications and you’ll be able to listen without wondering what that alert sound is about. Or if you are talking with someone over the phone, you can make sure you are in a quiet environment where you can stay alert with the conversation.  

2. Let The Person Finish Their Thought Before Jumping In

Sometimes, when we are listening to a friend or a colleague talk, we can’t wait to say what’s on our minds. So much so, that we sometimes stop listening to what the other person is saying and we are just waiting for them to stop talking. 

So, how do you fix this? First, chill for a sec, and second, remember that you will have your turn to speak!

You can still have something to say and actively listen at the same time. It’s not hard like tapping your head and rubbing your belly. 

 3. Give Feedback 

If you’ve seen the TV show, The Office, you’ll remember the episode where Dwight Schrute, a salesman, was preparing for a sales meeting with a woman. The women in the office told him that women like it when they are listened to. In a practice meeting with a woman in the office he did “listen”. He sat there and stared at her, not giving any non-verbal cues to show that he was in fact listening

It is important to give feedback when listening to someone because it shows that you’re paying attention to the conversation. 

Take waiters and waitresses for example. Don’t you feel better when they write down your food order rather than just relying on memory to get your order right? They might be really good listeners, but it makes you feel heard.

Remember to give some verbal cues such as “uh-huh” or “yeah”. Even summarize what the speaker said for clarification.

4. Read The Body Language

Actions speak louder than words. Actively listening is also reading the speaker’s body language. You’ll be able to meet their energy and respond appropriately.

5. Pay Attention To Your Own Body Language

 Body language goes both ways! If you’re slumped in your chair and you look like you’re bored or tired, then your friend or colleague can tell that you’re bored or tired. No one wants to talk to someone who isn’t showing any interest. 

Work on sitting up straight and even some head tilts and interested eyebrows to let the speaker know you are actively listening.

6. Listen To The Tone of Voice 

It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it!

Ever heard that one before? Well, it’s true! 

If someone is super frustrated try to match them and just get mad with them! A lot of the time, people just want to be listened to and want to vent, they are not looking for solutions to their problems.

7. Don’t Problem Solve

Sometimes, a friend or colleague just wants to talk and vent about life. They don’t always need a solution to their problems, they just need someone to listen to them and validate their feelings. 

If you’re upset with something at work and you vent to your friend about this, 

For men, they are more likely to offer advice, whereas women are more likely to offer support.

8. Ask Open Ended Questions

This tells the speaker that you’re listening and you care about what they’re talking about. It gives them the opportunity to elaborate more on the story which allows you to get a better understanding of what they are saying.

9. Don’t Be So Judgmental

Keep an open mind when you are listening to someone.

If you are like me, your brain is quick to start judging. Listening without judging, takes practice, but it will help you better empathize with the speaker.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice 

Practicing over and over again can only help you efforts. Active listening has a lot of reward. But just because you are sitting there, does not mean you are doing less. It is hard work to actively listen to someone and what they are trying to convey. Keep practicing and it is only going to get better from here!