Listening is a crucial component in positive communication, which provides a strong foundation for effective business practices. Becoming an active listener can enable an employee to be more productive and make fewer mistakes and means less time is wasted asking the wrong questions. It can create an open and positive atmosphere in the office and make people across the business feel genuinely valued. So, what steps can you take to help employees improve the listening skills they are already have?
Parrot style can be a good approach
While we don’t recommend employees parrot everything that is said to them, repeating what someone else has said to ensure that you have it right can be a useful listening technique. It will ensure that employees are genuinely listening and also means that comments or questions can be posed straight away. This technique demonstrates to the speaker that they are being heard and can help to avoid miscommunication.
This may seem obvious and yet so many of us don’t let people finish before we start talking. Proactive listening isn’t about waiting for the opportunity to speak but actually sitting and taking in what is being said without looking for a chance to interrupt. Interrupting is learned behaviour frequently seen where junior staff or female staff are speaking so it’s important to emphasise how key it is to listen well and wait for the speaker – whoever they are – to finish before providing a response.
Opting for objectivity
Emotions and feelings are natural but when it comes to listening they can cloud the situation. Encouraging employees to listen actively and without judgment will make it much easier to open channels of clear communication. Empathy is crucial in a listener as it will enable them to identify with the speaker and perhaps see issues or complaints from their perspective. Encourage employees to listen and react as professionally as possible to improve basic listening skills.
Ask your employees to use nonverbal cues
These can be very useful in encouraging the person speaking and ensuring that they know that they are being heard. Eye contact and the occasional nod of the head demonstrate that the person speaking has the full attention of the listener and that they are taking in what is being said. Slouching, yawning, fiddling with pens or standing with hands in pockets can give negative signals to the person speaking and damage communication as a result.
Distractions mean poor listening
There are a lot of distractions in an office that can interrupt good listening. From a phone screen lighting up to the sound of an email arriving in an inbox, an open window or being to close to a break out area, all can detract from the conversation. Especially for important conversations, advise employees to choose the right location and put away devices etc that could interrupt.
Being a good listener can improve employee career prospects and help individuals to interact more positively with each other. It’s a skill that all employees should be encouraged to develop.