One Technique for Improving Your Listening Skills

Mitchell_improve listening skills January 24, 2022 By: Barbara Mitchell

While listening has always been an important skill, it’s even more critical today for managers and other leaders. A look at how to use active listening.

Q: It seems that being a good listener is a more critical skill than ever. Can you give me some ideas on how to improve my listening skills?

A:  I am so glad you asked this important question. We have always been better listeners, but it’s more important now more than ever. Many of us who aren’t spending as much time face-to-face with our staff are relying on other means of communication. For sure, this means that every time we interact with our staff in person or online, we need to focus our attention on what they are saying.

One of the most effective ways to improve listening skills is to use a technique called active listening. This method you to listen attentively to a speaker, understand what they’re saying, respond and reflect on what is heard, as well as retaining what is heard. And isn’t that what you want to do when you are in conversation with your employees?

Here’s how it works:

It all starts with paying attention to the speaker. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. We’re surrounded by distractions so do your best to shut down the noise around you so you can focus on what is being said. As you are listening, reflect what you are hearing by your body language.

You don’t have to interrupt the speaker—consider a smile, a nod, or a raised eyebrow that lets the speaker know you’ve been listening. This is very encouraging to the person speaking and will encourage them to go on.

Many of us who aren’t spending as much time face-to-face with our staff are relying on other means of communication.

At an appropriate moment, repeat what you think you heard with a quick statement such as, “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying” and repeat what you think you heard. You should summarize what you’ve heard and share it with the speaker. Then, if there is any misunderstanding, they can clear it up.

This is also a good time to ask for more information or for examples of what they are referencing. If you use active listening, it will help you stay focused on what is being said and should help you and the speaker stay on the same page.

Active listening is first about understanding and less about being understood so if you disagree with the speaker, be sure you know what it is they are really saying before you jump in with your opinion. Active listening can help you be a better listener. It takes some time to develop these skills, but you will see a difference as you improve your listening skills.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to achq@asaecenter.org.