THE BENEFITS OF ACTIVE LISTENING IN THE WORKPLACEWritten By: Society Insurance Human Resources
When people on a team struggle to listen to each other, they can become disconnected. Active listening is important because it encourages openness, honesty, and success. This can help understand how people are motivated, how they’re feeling, and challenges they may be facing.
Below you will find information about what active listening is, the purpose it serves, its benefits, and more.
What Is Active Listening?
Active listening is not just hearing — it is a communication skill that requires critical thinking to decipher both verbal and nonverbal cues when somebody is talking. It is not enough to just listen to the words; active listening tasks you to think about the intent behind those words.
Here are a few ways to recognize when someone is actively listening:
- They pickup on verbal and nonverbal cues, such as inflection or facial expressions, to understand meaning
- They ask open-ended questions to encourage deeper thought
- They paraphrase what was just said (eg. “so if I’m hearing you correctly…”)
- They maintain eye contact
What’s the Purpose of Active Listening?
Passive listening is one-way communication that results in a lack of understanding, feedback and questions. Active listening is two-way communication that involves responses that show understanding and engagement. Sometimes you might notice passive listening when someone is not being addressed or the current topic of conversation is not relative to their work. You may see active listening manifest during interviews, one-on-one conversations or training sessions when responding to questions and engaging with the topic is necessary.
The bottom line is: without active listening, you cannot connect with your team, be an effective manager, or learn what needs to be done.
Active Listening Benefits for Managers
Active listening results in increased productivity and innovation when executed correctly. When people use active listening skills, they can process the information and ask questions that can lead to new perspectives, problem-solving, and complete understanding. Having more information about a topic, project or change can help move forward with it versus getting stuck on small things that were missed early on. It can also result in innovation once new perspectives have added feedback during these conversations.
Truly listening to people can also result in improved morale. Employees who not only feel heard, but can see that their manager is understanding and responding to what they are saying in a thoughtful way has positive effects on retention and engagement as a result of improved morale. Active listening also results in better communication. When you take the time to give your team the undivided attention that active listening requires, you will have a deeper understanding of your team’s needs and desires. This can help you with future planning, retention and engagement which can result in more productivity and overall increased happiness in the workplace. Active listening can also result in a greater relationship with your employees. Employees will feel that they can trust you more, if you really understand and respond to what they are saying about their needs, wants and challenges.
Active Listening Benefits for Employees
When employees truly feel heard, it can lead to an increase in job satisfaction. Employees want to be engaged in their work and enjoy their team, so having a good foundation with their coworkers and managers in addition to feeling heard makes this a natural progression. Additionally, employees may feel more motivated when they are heard. This could be done by receiving helping advice or feedback on working through a challenge, receiving praise for work done, or just knowing that they are valued enough to have undivided attention when speaking.
Active listening leads to better overall communication and understanding, which benefits your team’s decision-making abilities. A team that is already communicating well and knows the dynamics, needs and challenges of the workload can help overcome minor hurdles and work towards the bigger decisions and goals. They can feel comfortable knowing they have a forum to bring new ideas and suggestions and know that all ideas are valued. This all results in improvement in decision-making on both an individual level and a team level.
What Does Active Listening Look Like?
When someone is actively listening, there are fundamental signs that they are engaged. They maintain eye contact, nod, sit still, and remain silent when needed to finish thoughts and to digest what was said. You may also hear someone repeat what was said, reflect on their feelings about it, and ask open-ended questions.
When practicing active listening, make sure to avoid and eliminate any distractions you are able to. This helps show your dedication to listening to the speaker. When listening, show empathy through your body language, short verbal affirmations, or non-verbal affirmations like nodding. Make sure to give relevant feedback that is appropriate to what the speaker was talking about.
Tips For Becoming a Better Active Listener
Recognize the fact that active listening isn’t something everyone is used to doing. Make it clear that it is a skill that can be learned. Some good ways to make improvements include:
- Paraphrasing what the speaker has said when they’re done. (”So you’re saying…”, or, “So you’re feeling X because Y”). This shows that not only did you hear what they said, but you’re invested in the conversation.
- Ask questions to clarify their meaning and sentiment, as well as to encourage them to discuss the topic on a deeper level. (”Can you tell me what you mean by X?” or “Tell me more about what happened after…”). This helps expand the conversation and can help you provide meaningful feedback.
- Avoid interrupting the speaker. What’s more, if you have something to say, try not to focus too much on it because it could prevent you from truly listening beyond that point. If it is not distracting, you could jot a note to circle back at a later point when it is your turn to talk.
- Use body language and eye contact to demonstrate your attentiveness. Being visually engaged can help support the openness of the conversation and the confidence of the speaker. They should feel that you have no other priorities at the moment.
Practice Active Listening to Build Better Teams
Active listening is engagement within a conversation that showcases processing and support. It is one of the most important things you can do when talking one-on-one with people in the workplace. When done properly, active listening opens channels of communication, team building and innovation. You can get better at active listening by practicing, removing distractions, and asking clarifying questions when needed. Everyone, regardless of whether they are a senior-level leader or a front-line employee, can benefit from listening actively and being actively listened to. Building stronger teams with techniques like active listening takes time and attention. Society Insurance is focused on protecting your business so you can spend more time on things like active listening that builds successful teams. To learn more about protecting your business with Society Insurance, contact your local agent today.