Do you want to know how to improve active listening skills?
If you do, then we can help you out.
Active listening is very different from regular listening that most people do.
It makes communication better and easier.
However, if your active listening skills are poor you would not be able to listen actively.
Therefore, in this article, we will share essential information that you can make use of to improve your active listening skills.
So, if you want this, we advise that you join us.
We will begin by looking closely at what active listening is…
What is Active Listening? – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Active listening is the ability to center your attention on a speaker, understand and comprehend their information or message, and thoughtfully respond.
When you listen actively you can retain and recall what was being said to you without having the message or information repeated.
Active listening makes use of certain skills and non-verbal and verbal techniques that can indicate when a person is listening actively.
These skills are what we often refer to as active listening skills.
As we go on, we would discuss these skills and how you can make use of both non-verbal and verbal communicaton techniques to improve them.
3 ‘A’ s of Active Listening – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
When we talk about active listening, there are three As that summarizes the concept and make us understand it better.
Let us quickly look at them:
Attitude – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Your attitude matters when listening actively.
If you do not approach your speaker with an open and positive attitude you would not listen actively.
This is because you would be calculating or disagreeing with what they say and lose your focus on the speaker.
When this happens, you would negate the purpose of active listening.
So, even when you do not agree with the information or message shared ensure that you keep an open and positive attitude.
You cannot actively listen when you are distracted.
This is because you need to be attentive and focused on the person speaking.
Hence, you need to ignore distractions and focus your attention on the speaker or conversation.
Remove everything that can make you lose focus.
To actively listen, you need to be mentally and physically present.
Adjustment – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Active listening requires you to adapt and adjust to speakers’ topics or messages.
You should be able to move with the speaker’s flow.
To effectively do this, one has to avoid making assumptions or steering the conversation to a different topic.
Key Skills for Active Listening – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Now that you have a better understanding of what active listening is about, let us look at the skills that ensure active listening.
There are 6 key skills for active listening, and they are:
One main aim of active listening is to hear and understand what a speaker is saying.
This cannot be achieved if the listener is distracted.
We earlier made you understand that attention makes up active listening.
So, how do you remain attentive while a speaker is speaking?
The way to remain attentive and not get distracted is by staying focused on the speaker.
Focus is the ability or skill to center your interest or attention on a particular thing or person.
It allows you to stay dedicated to a particular course of action till it is done.
When you are focused on a person, you will be able to notice and understand their body language.
Also, it will allow your mind to be in the moment and stay engaged in what is being said.
Check here to discover how business owners can stay focused on their goals.
Open-mindedness – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
To listen actively, you need to possess open-mindedness.
Open-mindedness is the ability to consider new perspectives and ideas without prejudice.
In other words, it is when you can listen to others and not be judgmental.
You need to be open and welcoming to different and new perspectives, ideas, and possibilities when engaging in active listening.
Your speaker might have strong or wrongs views that you feel like you should correct.
However, you need to hold your judgment and criticisms.
Do not interrupt them to argue or sell their points right away.
When you are practicing active listening, the speaker should see that you are listening to them attentively.
Your ability to reflect is what will make this possible.
When we say reflect we mean that can catch those key points and periodically paraphrase them.
This way, the speaker will know that you are following them.
For example, if the speaker says “Running a business is not so difficult, you just need the right information, people, and skills to do it”.
You can paraphrase their point by saying something like “So you are saying, we need the right people, information, and skills to effectively run a business”.
Clarity – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
The ability to clarify things helps you to better understand what is being said when practicing active listening.
As we briefly mentioned, you need to understand what a speaker is saying to actively listen.
Hence, clarity is needed.
So, when a speaker says something unclear or ambiguous, do not hesitate to ask them to clarify.
You need to possess the ability to summarize everything that has been said.
This would show that you understand the speaker’s message.
So, when the speaker is done speaking, briefly go over everything you have understood while actively listening.
Share – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Active listening should not stop at you understanding what the speaker has said.
You need to understand the speaker, and also share your point of view.
Hence, you need to possess the ability to share your ideas, opinions, suggestions, and feelings.
Once you do this, there will be a mutual understanding between both parties.
Tips on How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Now that you know the key skills for active listening, how can you improve them and become a good active listener?
As we earlier said, you can make use of non-verbal techniques and verbal techniques of communication to improve your active listening skills.
Hence, we are going to be looking at some amazing tips that would help you to do this.
As we earlier said, you need to possess the ability to reflect on what your speaker says.
This will indicate that you are listening to the speaker.
Since speakers need to know that you are listening to them, then you should not take it lightly.
The best way to do this is by paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing also provides an opportunity for the speaker to speak more on their message and clarify ambiguous information.
For example, when listening actively the speaker could say something like “Business depends on its customers”.
You can paraphrase by saying “So, you are saying a business cannot do without its customers”
This will make the speaker reply with more information on what they earlier said.
When you make use of paraphrasing you are making use of a verbal technique to actively listen.
The more you do this, the better your active listening skills improve.
2. Make Use of Verbal Affirmations – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
As you should now understand, your speaker has to know that you are following and listening to them for active listening to be effective.
So when you are actively listening you should make use of verbal affirmation.
Verbal affirmations are words that confirm things.
In this case, it confirms that you are listening to the speaker.
The verbal affirmations that you make use of should be short to avoid distracting both yourself and the speaker.
Your speaker will appreciate you when you make use of verbal affirmation and it will motivate them to go on.
3. Display Empathy
Feelings are part of the things people share when communicating.
Hence, when you are actively listening you have to ensure that it shows that you recognize and understand the feeling that is being shared.
When you feel and show your speaker compassion, it will help you to connect better with them.
This in turn will build mutual trust between the both of you.
Some ways you can display empathy when practicing active listening are:
- Tell people that you understand their feelings
- A light and a friendly pat on the shoulder or hand
- Offer help
4. Keep Eye Contact – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
To develop or improve your focus when you are actively listening, you should not look at people or things in your surroundings.
Rather, keep your gaze locked on your speaker.
However, ensure that your gaze is not too intense to avoid making the speaker or yourself nervous.
You can break eye contact for a few seconds before going back to continue your eye contact with the speaker.
Ensure that you do not take your gaze far from the speaker when you break eye contact for those short seconds.
5. Smile and Nod
Smiling and nodding go a long way in encouraging the speaker to go on.
Nodding indicates that you understand the message or information being shared.
It is a supportive and helpful cue.
However, it does not necessarily show that you appreciate or agree with what is being said.
Nonetheless, it shows that you are processing the speaker’s message meaning or point.
Meanwhile, smiling shows that you appreciate and are happy with the message.
Smiling can be used in place of verbal affirmation.
It can also help in diffusing tension and making the speaker comfortable.
6. Ask Probing and Open-ended Questions – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
When you want to clarify what the speaker is saying there are two types of questions you can ask.
These questions are open-ended and probing questions.
Let us look at them closely to better understand them.
Open-ended Questions – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
This type of question cannot be simply answered with a no or yes.
When you ask these questions it guides the speaker to share additional information.
As a result, you will be able to gather more information.
Example: “I see that you are not pleased with the trends and movements in your industry. So, what are the changes you would like to make?”
Probing Questions – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
As the term implies, probing questions seeks to find the truth.
It guides the speaker to narrow down broad topics or subjects or give more details about their message or information.
Probing questions are specific.
Example: “You say your team is frustrating you. Tell me, what exactly are they doing that is frustrating you?”
7. Avoid Distracting Movements
You can show focus by staying still.
In other words, making unnecessary and distracting movements can make a speaker feel like you are not paying attention to them.
It can also distract them as they speak.
So, when practicing active listening you have to avoid distracting movements such as tapping your feet or a pen, audibly sighing, or shifting on your chair.
Also, do not engage in non-verbal or verbal communication with other people when listening to a speaker.
If you do, it can make them uncomfortable or frustrated.
Benefits of Active Listening – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Active listening is helpful in both our personal and professional lives because it has wonderful benefits.
These benefits are:
It Builds Trusting Relationships
Trust is one basic value that active listening brings.
In other words, whether it is between employees and employers, or between friends, trust can be built when you listen actively to people.
This is because people appreciate those who can attentively listen to them when they are sharing information without judgment.
Also because active listening enables people to give thoughtful responses that the speakers often appreciate.
Furthermore, active listening ensures that there is a better understanding of the speaker and what they are saying.
As a result of all these, people are usually comfortable speaking and communicating with active listeners.
This eventually, makes them build a trusting relationship where both parties can freely speak their mind and be listened to with no prejudice.
Solves and Prevent Disagreements and Conflict – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Several conflicts and disagreements have happened because people did not actively listen to speakers.
They listen passively, often get the wrong message, or interpret the message wrongly.
As a result, they get angry or sad about what they thought they heard, and then the disagreement or conflict comes in.
All of which can be prevented when people listen actively.
This is because active listening allows a person to fully understand what their speaker is saying.
Active listeners do not add or subtract to what they hear.
Therefore, they do not misunderstand what is being shared with them.
Furthermore, active listening helps people to solve disagreements and conflicts.
As we said, active listening allows you to get the message without misunderstanding it.
It also allows you to see things from different points of view.
This helps you to recognize and appreciate other people’s feelings.
As a result, you will be able to move to pass your feelings and come to a compromise with the other person.
This way, conflicts, and disagreements will be easily solved.
Provides Accurate Information
When you actively listen to a person when they are speaking, you will get everything they are saying.
In other words, you will not miss information and you will get the right information.
This will prevent you from getting the wrong information and making errors.
You will remember the details of the information easily and this will help you to execute your task well.
Boost Productivity – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
As we just shared, active listening helps you to receive the correct and complete information or message from speakers.
This makes it easier for you to work with that information to effectively perform your work.
The more you listen actively to instructions, the better your productivity rate will become.
Furthermore, in a workplace, productivity can be a boost when everybody practices active listening.
Everyone will appreciate being listened to.
Hence, this will make teamwork easier and better, and ideas will not be withheld.
As a result of all of these, there would be inclusiveness and positivity in that workplace.
The employees will feel more motivated and energized to do their work without distractions.
When you actively listen to people when they are speaking, you can get information that you did not know before.
Active listening will not only enable you to hear this information but also understand them well.
You will also be able to remember them after hearing them.
The knowledge you get can be used to better yourself, your career, and your business.
Empowers Leaders – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Active listening can empower people to be better leaders.
This is because when you listen actively, you expand your perspectives.
Hence, you would be able to see things from different angles and find it easier to come up with ideas and solve problems.
Also, you will not be in the dark about what is going on in your business, with and between your employees.
You will communicate better with your employees, clients, and customers and grow your business when you listen actively.
Skills Associated With Active Listening – How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Certain soft skills make it easier for active listening to take place.
These skills can stand on their own, but together they ensure that active listening is done better.
Also, these skills are found under interpersonal skills and communication skills.
This is because active listening falls under interpersonal and communication skills which enable a person to relate and connect well with others, and effectively communicate and understand them.
Hence, the skills are said to be associated with active listening
We do not want you to miss out on any information concerning active listening as they can help improve your active listening skills.
So, below are the skills that are closely associated with active listening:
- Emotional intelligence
- Feedback (giving and receiving)
- Nonverbal communication
Conclusion on How to Improve Active Listening Skills
Active listening is important in both our personal and professional life.
It helps us to understand people and do things better.
Hence, if your active listening skills are poor, then you need to work to improve them.
In this article, we have shared information that would help you do so.
So, we hope you find it useful.