S5E8: Great Leaders are Active Listeners

“Learning how to listen effectively is a critical part of communication and building stronger connections.” Peter Margaritis

 Being an active listener creates many advantages in life and work. However, mastering the art of active listening is easier said than done. Active listeners pay attention to what others are saying without thinking about how they will respond or how the conversation might affect them. They listen to a big difference in what the other person is saying – not what they hear.

We can all become more active listeners. Here are three essential tips to consider as you work toward becoming a more active listener – and communicator!

Listening = Communication

Communication is an essential part of any relationship, whether personal or professional, so learning how to listen effectively is a critical part of communication and building stronger connections. Without communication, there would be no relationships.

Active listening skills are learned, not innate

The keys to becoming a great listener are awareness and practice. A common mistake in conversations is getting caught up in what we want to say – instead of listening to what the other person is saying. So instead of just waiting for your turn to speak, spend more time actively listening. Then respond when you’ve genuinely heard what’s being said.

There’s no easy shortcut to learning active listening skills. However, what you can do right away is to PAUSE in a conversation and consider what the other person is expressing with thoughts and ideas. Respond by asking questions. Let them talk. Make eye contact. Repeat what you think you heard and get their affirmation that you listened to what they said – not what you wanted to hear. The more you practice these skills professionally and personally during your conversations, the better you’ll get at them!

When you’re in conversation with someone, your natural tendency might be to formulate your response while they’re still talking. So instead of making any judgment or addition based on your assumptions, focus solely on listening and learning as much as possible from what they are saying. In other words, don’t give advice when someone hasn’t asked for it! Instead, show that you want to understand their perspective and feelings before proposing anything.

Seek Ways to Practice Every Day

Developing active listening skills is easier said than done, but as with most skills, constant practice will pay off greatly. One way to begin your daily routine is to jot down three things you heard that made sense and one thing you listened to that didn’t make sense—keep these notes in your phone or on a whiteboard at work. Then, as you go through your day, take note of what you hear that doesn’t seem to be making sense; then do some follow-up research. Wash – Rinse – Repeat!

Each day, take time out of your schedule to reflect on how you interacted with other people. In addition to building quality communication skills that will become practical tools for handling any situation, active listening can also help develop effective team dynamics at work and help create more meaningful professional relationships outside of work.

We all need to become more active listeners!