Active Listening Skills
Listening is the process by which you gain an understanding of the needs, demands and preferences of the other through direct interaction. To be a good active listener, there are two components for success: attention and reflection.
Attentive listening includes eye contact, posture, facial expressions, gestures and genuine interest in what the person is saying.
Reflection includes repeating and paraphrasing what you have heard, showing the person that you truly understand what has been said.
Good listeners actively endeavour to understand what others are really trying to say, regardless of how unclear the messages might be. Listening involves not only the effort to decode verbal messages, but also to interpret nonverbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and physical posture.
Effective listeners make sure to let others know that they have been heard, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings fully.
One way to show your listening skills is to carefully listen to others entirety before responding. Don’t interrupt and do be sure your responses reflect what you were asked. It's fine to take a few moments to frame a response to the question. That shows that you've listened and are considering the best way to answer the question.
What Makes a Bad Listener
Interrupting the person you're speaking with, and talking before they have had a chance to finish what they are saying indicates that your listening skills may need polishing up. Responding with a statement that doesn't answer the question you've been asked will reflect poorly on your listening skills, especially in the workplace.
Talking too much is another issue. Conversations should be balanced between you and the other person, and if you monopolize the conversation you won't get the opportunity to listen. The person you're talking to won't get a chance to share what they want to say, and you won't make a good impression.
Examples of Listening Skills
A job candidate who summarizes her understanding of an unclear question during an interview and asks if she has it right.
An interviewer noticing that a candidate doesn't look her in the eye when asserting a key strength.
A customer service worker rephrasing a problem or complaint from a patron to reassure her that she has been heard.
A counselor nodding and saying "I hear you" to encourage a client to share more about a traumatizing incident.
A meeting facilitator encouraging a reticent group member to share her views about a proposal.
An interviewer asking a follow-up question to gain further clarification about how a candidate has applied a critical skill in a past job.
A manager summarizing what she has heard as a group consensus during a meeting and asking her staff if she has heard things correctly.
An employee restating the specific areas a supervisor wants him to work on improving during a performance review.
A salesperson asking an open-ended question like "What can I do to serve you better?" and encouraging his counterpart to share any concerns fully at a client meeting.
A nurse letting a patient know that she is aware how scared they are about their upcoming surgery.
An employee paying careful attention to a speaker at a training session and asking questions to clarify any information which is being shared.