Active Listening in the Workplace - Enspark Interactive | Blog

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Active Listening in the Workplace

April 25, 2024

Gone are the days of showing up, doing your job, and going home. Company culture and team building are top workplace trends and require more employee interaction than ever before. More organizations are encouraging group collaborations that lead to greater innovation and perspectives from increasingly diverse teams. This makes communication skills a must. Active listening is one of the starting points. 

Benefits of training team members in active listening

When there is effective, active listening and a safe place for team members to express themselves, the results for the organization are far-reaching and include:

  • Increased levels of trust between co-workers
  • More information obtained from team members
  • Maximized productivity
  • Decreased conflict and misunderstandings

When team members do not feel they are being heard they may

  • Feel unvalued and lose motivation
  • Lose trust in those around them and fail to communicate
  • Develop frustration that leads to conflict

Do you think that you are a good listener? 

Research has shown that most people consider themselves to be above-average listeners, but that in reality, people listen only 25% effectively. 

The shift to more active listening involves learning to listen with the head as well as the heart, which may feel foreign in a professional setting. 

Listening with your head

Listening with the head involves focusing on the content of the conversation and attempting to spot clues about how the other person is experiencing the situation. What clues is she or he offering about their worldview? What about their past experiences?

Listening with your heart

As you listen with your heart you try to pick up on the underlying feelings of the other person. This is important as there are often strong values and beliefs at play when multicultural dynamics are present.

Combining the head and the heart

The goal is to develop the ability to listen with the head and heart at the same time. Here are a few fundamental skills to develop that will help you listen with the head and the heart.

According to Psychtests, those who learn to listen actively with their head and heart come out significantly ahead professionally: 

  • Better at adapting their conduct to different social situations (score of 75 vs. 63 for both Logic group and Feelings/Gut group).
  • > More socially insightful and good at understanding human nature (score of 70 vs. 59 for both Logic group and Feelings/Gut group).
  • > Better at coping with stress (score of 70 vs. 59 for both Logic group and Feelings/Gut group).
  • > Better at resolving conflict (score of 75 vs. 57 for Logic group and 58 for Feelings/Gut group).
  • > Better at dealing with minor, daily annoyances (score of 84 vs. 72 for Logic group and 69 for Feelings/Gut group).

How to do it

Probing during a conversation. 

Rather than being silent the entire time the other person is speaking, probing involves asking for additional information from the person you are speaking with in a nonjudgemental way and in a way that flows from what they have previously said. Good probing questions ask for elaboration and clarification and show that you are carefully considering the words of the person with whom you are speaking.

Cooperating vs. competing 

When you cooperate during a conversation you are approaching it with the goal of understanding rather than to “win” the discussion or prove yourself right. Instead, seek to validate the speaker and hear all he or she has to say. Rather than preparing your response or identifying ways to challenge the person, a cooperative conversation flows and leads both parties to a better understanding of the other.

Do I understand you correctly?

Reflecting back to the speaker is another example of the way effective listening is an active process. It is especially crucial in communicating across cultures when there is a greater chance of misunderstandings or things being “lost in translation.” Try to develop a habit of periodically paraphrasing what you have heard and how you have interpreted what has been said. This allows the speaker to clarify his or her point and for you both to confirm that there is an understanding between you.

These are some tips to learn how to listen more actively. Want to know what habits lead to communication breakdowns in the first place? Keep your eyes out for our next blog post: Breaking Bad Communication Habits.

More about workplace dynamics:

Workplace distractions and five tips to minimize them

Training for managers on performance appraisals

Healthy vs Unhealthy Workplace Conflict

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