What is active listening?
This concept seems counterintuitive, as listening is almost always understood as a passive task. When we talk about active listening, we are talking about a process that goes far beyond just listening.
Active listening involves clear expressions of interest in what the other person has to say, a willingness to understand their point of view, and an effort to prevent personal judgments from overriding the speaker’s ideas.
Interacting, answering questions and even demonstrating a contrary opinion can be part of active listening. The central point of the technique is not silence, or acceptance without questioning, but the effort to assimilate what was said and respect when responding.
How important is active listening?
In a work environment , we are often surrounded by distractions, while our minds are focused on solving problems. The scenario makes efficient communication difficult, and as a result, we end up losing valuable suggestions brought by colleagues and collaborators.
Active listening allows capturing these ideas and reflecting on them, favoring a process of continuous improvement in the organization. It is based on the principle that everyone in a company can contribute proposals on how to do their job better.
Many companies even work the technique in their Kaizen cycles, method and philosophy capable of driving continuous improvement, defining active listening sessions where time without distractions is dedicated to employee suggestions.
Benefits of Active Listening
The technician is responsible for:
- Improve the relationship within the teams, and between them;
- Ensure a constant flow of information, allowing alignment between the different sectors of the company;
- Promote a culture of innovation , as employees feel safe to express their ideas;
- Develop effective communication that gets to the point;
- Reduce the occurrence of conflicts, often caused by misunderstandings;
- Increase employee confidence in leaders, and vice versa;
6 tips to develop active listening
The opportunities to use active listening are endless. It can be implemented in selection processes, brainstorming sessions, feedbacks , trainings, and so on.
Check out some tools and methods to strengthen the practice in your daily life:
1. Avoid the distractions
It is critical to devote quality time to active listening. Checking your cell phone or allowing other people to constantly interrupt the conversation not only impedes speech understanding but also demonstrates disrespect, causing the other person to withdraw.
You can use the Pomodoro method and set a few minutes for an active listening session, making the caller understand that time has been reserved for them.
2. Ask open-ended questions
Asking is part of active listening, as long as you wait for the other person to finish their talk before questioning something. The use of open-ended questions demonstrates interest in the conversation, and also leaves room for more information to emerge.
As an example, instead of asking whether employees liked a recent change (with only yes or no for an answer), ask what impacts it has had on their work routine.
3. Train your mind
Attention is a central skill in active listening, and it can be exercised through mindfulness, a meditative technique that can increase our concentration in the present moment.
Just as external distractions get in the way of communication, we can also distract ourselves by remembering something we need to talk to someone else, a bill that’s due tomorrow, or a problem at home, and mindfulness keeps these parallel thoughts from stealing focus.
4. Implement an Ideas Program
As a manager, it can be difficult to listen to all of your team members frequently, and still organize the suggestions offered by each one so that they can generate real change in the company.
An ideas program makes it possible to close this gap, offering a space where employees can indicate ways to improve the work in their areas, in addition to transforming proposals into innovation projects and managing each stage of their execution.
5. Master nonverbal communication
It is common to feel that a person has no interest in what we are talking about or is just waiting to respond, even without having said a word. This is due to non-verbal communication, a language that uses facial expressions and gestures to communicate thoughts.
A simple example is crossed arms, which indicate rejection of what is being said. Understanding verbal communication will allow you to fully master active listening, conveying openness and confidence even before you begin to speak.
6. Offer feedbacks
Active listening is an exchange, and the use of feedback ensures that you understand the other person’s thoughts, leaving room for them to explain again something misunderstood.
At the end of the conversation, summarize what you heard, with appropriate criticisms, suggestions, and compliments. If the subject is linked to decision-making, it is also possible to prepare a brief written document, highlighting what was deliberated.
What is the relationship between active listening and innovation?
Opening spaces for people to be willing to speak, active listening becomes a pillar of innovation in a company. It allows absorbing relevant information brought by members of the organization and customers, facilitating the research and development work , which is the basis of an innovative company.