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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What does Active Listening mean?

Active listening is an important communication skill to use in the workplace. It is the practice of focusing on the words of the other person, instead of focusing on your response. Active listening should be non-judgemental and create an environment of trust.

Active listening is one of the most beneficial and important soft skills to improve within the workplace. It displays the ability to understand the speaker’s message and the information being shared, and shows respect and understanding of the speaker’s feelings or opinions. 

Practising active listening improves the ability to absorb information and be able to recall it later, without the need for the information to be repeated. 

Benefits of active listening

Active listening can improve so many aspects of daily work and the overall organisation.

Firstly, actively listening improves and better maintains working relationships. There’s less need to repeat discussions, and less space for misunderstandings. When working on projects, it’s best to actively listen to the requests, and then over-communicate with questions and work capacity. 

Actively listening will also improve collaboration within teams and cross-collaborations. Teams will feel better respected and understood when people are asking relevant questions and paying close attention.

All this over communication brings us another benefit; Better problem-solving skills. As people work better together, they’ll be able to tackle problems faster and more efficiently, boosting productivity throughout the organisation.

Improving active listening skills

As discussed above, improving listening skills at work will directly benefit the individual and the team. Below, we have highlighted the most important communication skills to work on, both verbally and non-verbally.

Verbal communication skills 

Paraphrasing – Once the speaker has finished, paraphrase the conversation to show your clear understanding. Doing so will also allow the speaker the chance to confirm or expand on any ideas or topics discussed. 

Asking open-ended questions – An open-ended question requires an answer more in depth than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They should be designed to open up more dialogue and discussion. Asking these questions shows the speaker your interest in the topic. 

Display empathy – If the aim of the conversation is to give feedback or share concerns, it’s important to display empathy. The speaker should feel understood in regard to their emotions and frustrations. Empathy is one of the most important leadership skills to improve on. 

Non-verbal communication skills 

Body language – To stay engaged and show full attention to the conversation, body language should stay focused on the speaker. Hold good eye contact and posture, nodding and smiling will encourage the speaker to continue. 

Avoid distracting behaviour – Make sure to avoid looking distracted to help the conversation flow smoothly. The listener should try not to check their watch or phone, or display signs of paying attention to other things. If a computer is not essential to the conversation, then leave it behind, or close it. 

For more information on communication skills and how to actively listen, check out our guide on how to receive feedback.

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