The Art of Active Listening for Leaders
Improve Your Communication by Practicing Silence
Listening is a big part of communication. It allows us to learn, plan, develop, create, think, and be a part of something larger than ourselves. Listening builds trust in relationships, establishes rapport, and demonstrates concern. Learn how to listen well if you want to know what people want. And you must learn active listening to be a great leader. Why? It’s not just about hearing what people say, but what they don’t say. Active listening is giving your full attention to someone so you comprehend what they’re communicating – subtleties included.
Ready to be an awesome active listener? Here are the basics:
- Look at the person talking.
- Make eye contact.
- Avoid distractions (i.e. put your phone away) and be present.
- Use gestures like nodding to let them know you understand.
- Give feedback.
Have the basics down? Here are some additional techniques and tips to take your active listening to the next level:
- Use brief verbal affirmations like “I see.”
- Ask open-ended questions that are specific to what they’re talking about.
- Request clarification when needed – this tells the person that you want to know what they have to say.
- Paraphrase – this lets the person know you heard them, processed it, and reformatted in a way you understand.
- Summarize your conversation – end the discussion by bullet-pointing what you heard.
Now you’re listening, but are you really understanding? Here are some tips for comprehending what you’re being told:
- Visualize what the person is saying.
- Follow any directions given to you.
- Slow down and practice silence.
- Withhold personal judgement.
As a leader, these things can help you hear what people are saying in conversations and meetings. However, there’s one more thing you can do to increase your success. The best scenario for active listening is in one-on-ones. Make those meetings a special space where your employees can share and be acknowledged, and you’re well on your way to leader of the year.