Benefits of Active Listening

Monday, April 16, 2018 | Posted by: Alpha Kappa Psi

Regardless of size or industry, just about every single business is built on a bedrock of interpersonal communication. Your marketing department has updates for the sales team, the IT squad needs to run some changes by the executive board, and the interns want you to know there’s coffee cake in the kitchen. Whatever the message, a company’s success can be measured by just how efficiently and accurately all this information is shared.

Of course, with any organization there’s bound to be some hiccups and communication breakdowns. It may be a simple misunderstanding or case of crossed wires, but these gaps in listening can cost a business a fortune. A study showed that companies with 100,000 or more employees see a loss of $62.4 million per year due to poor communication. Even small companies with less than 100 people are at risk, with research showing an annual average loss of $420,000. Though some of these missteps may be attributable to technological or external issues, there exists larger issue at play, mainly a lack of active listening.

What Is Active Listening?

It’s always easy to get distracted during a conversation. You may be multitasking, lost in your thoughts, or just in a noisy room. But whatever the reason, the result is always the same: a lowered level of communication. Active listening is a way to be fully present in a conversation and to make sure you’re engaging with the speaker’s overall message. By using a structured form of listening that includes question-asking and reflection for the listener, the practice seeks to raise comprehension, understanding, and retention of information. It also is a great way to boost morale and improve a team’s connection, as participants will feel heard and understood. Here’s how it works:

  • Find a quiet or secluded place to talk. Remove any distractions that might hijack your focus. This might mean leaving your phone at your desk, turning off a computer screen, or pausing any music that’s playing.
  • Listen entirely to the speaker’s message, whatever that may be. It’s okay if you don’t understand or agree – what’s important is that you’re opening your ears and closing your mouth.
  • Refrain from responding until the speaker has finished. Don’t interject your opinion or add information. Save your questions until the end. Missing these points is a one-way ticket to a one-sided conversation.
  • Make sure you’re also maintaining eye contact and keeping track of the speaker’s words as well as their body language. Show them that you’re listening with small nods and maintaining an open posture.
  • Once they have completely finished, show them you’re actively listening by paraphrasing the entire message. Frame the statement as a question, beginning with a friendly tone like “If I’m hearing you correctly…” “If I accurately understand…” Also, ask any relevant questions you may have as you continue the conversation.

Why Should I Be Using Active Listening?

Because of the barrage of info at a workplace, you don’t have the luxury of deciding what is and isn’t worth knowing. You may be stuck at a boring weekly staff meeting, half listening to your assistant manager reading off a PowerPoint as you dream of the weekend. But if you decide to tune out, you just may miss an announcement about a new sales incentive or changing to your parking space. As an active listener, your job is to strengthen communication by creating an engaged, two-way dialogue at all times. If you’re able to implement it, you can expect at least a few of the following benefits to make an appearance in your life:

  • No more missing info, no matter how interesting or boring it may be. This means less mistakes and greater efficiency.
  • You’ll establish a greater level of trust with your fellow employees.
  • Conflict resolution becomes a strength, not a battle. You’ll be able to keep a cool head and see both sides of a conversation.
  • Increased morale among your team members. Active listening doesn’t just benefit you; it makes others feel more valued and will cultivate a culture of respect and empathy.
  • Efficiency and productivity are going to skyrocket. No longer will there be holdups on timelines due to a misunderstanding.
  • Employers will be impressed at your focus and enthusiasm, and you’ll demonstrate your willingness to be a team player.
  • You’ll engage with customers on a whole new level. Whether you’re selling something, offering customer service, or even just polling their opinions, active listening will help you maximize those interactions and squeeze every drop out of the conversation. Active listening has become so valuable that Speakeasy AI just released its Active Listening Pilot. This program has built the practice into its artificial intelligence in order to learn and listen to its customers in real-time, while also providing insight into the customer's questions and comments.

In business, communication is key. Without an effective way to listen and understand others’ viewpoints, information, and insight, your work environment could falter drastically. However, it’s easy enough to practice active listening as a way to combat these misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Do you have any other suggestions for being a better listener? We’re all ears.

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