People spend up to 80% of their days communicating, and over 50% of that time is dedicated to listening.
However, the average listener only remembers around 25% of what was said.
If you’re in a leadership role, one way to be effective is by being a good listener. Being a good listener is far from passive. Effective listening skills require a physical and mental focus on whoever is speaking.
Do you want to learn more about why listening skills and leadership communication go hand in hand? Keep reading to learn all about how to master your active listening skills!
How to Improve Listening Skills
Good listening skills don’t come naturally to everyone. Throughout early education, there is a lot of focus on reading and writing, but little gets extended to the significance of active listening.
With the right listening skills, any individual can become more confident and influential. Plus, reflective listening skills help to improve relationships both in one’s professional life and one’s personal life. Let’s take a look at some excellent tips to improve listening skills.
Think of Listening as a Muscle
Just like the muscles in our bodies, listening is a skill that must be nurtured and exercised. You must practice being an excellent listener, and the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
The key is to perceive listening as more than just hearing what someone is saying. You have to hear, process, and understand the delivery of the message you hear.
Bring an authentic desire to your conversations, your meetings, and your interactions. Whether you’re interested or not, become interested and exhibit that authenticity.
Listen With Your Body Through Active Listening
Have you ever had to present to a room full of people, many of whom are on their phones, eating, or distracted in some other way? Nothing is more frustrated or confidence-wrecking than feeling as though others have no interest in what you have to say.
What about those times in your past when, while you spoke to someone, they looked at their watch? When our audience isn’t listening, we can tell, no matter how good they think they are at faking it.
Practice active listening by focusing your sole attention on the speaker. Put your phone down, stop clicking your pen, and stop snacking. Nod your head and use open body language.
Choose to listen with your entire body. Lean in, sit up straight, do whatever it takes to show that you’re engaged, and process what you’re hearing.
There’s a leadership concept called “Respectful Inquiry.” What is says is that by asking open questions and listening attentively, good leaders become powerful leaders. The model satisfies basic human needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence.
If you’re asking questions, you most likely hear the message. Ask open questions to demonstrate your desire to both engage and communicate. Show your interest by asking questions that demonstrate a strong desire to learn more.
Stay away from closed questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” as these leave little opportunity to engage further.
Make Eye Contact
Body language plays a huge role in active listening skills. There’s a balance too. You wouldn’t want to stare at your speaker the entire time, or they’d eventually become uncomfortable.
Hold their gaze, though, and make eye contact. In doing so, you’ll communicate to them that you’re interested, focused, and understanding.
Take a moment to analyze the speaker like you would an audience. If they don’t demonstrate excellent eye contact skills and seem nervous, you can still hold their gaze, but don’t do it too much. Likewise, if they’re a speaker who demands attention and presence, you can give them a lot of focus through eye contact.
Open up Your Posture
Pay close attention to the way you sit or stand when you’re listening. Doing things like tapping your feet, folding your arms, or biting your lip can indicate impatience or disinterest.
When you keep an open posture, only using soft movements, you’re telling the person speaking that you are interested and eager to learn what they have to say.
Paraphrase When It Makes Sense
One of the most effective listening skills is summarizing what someone has said.
For example, say your coworker breaks down the next steps for a particular project. Take a moment when they finish to paraphrase, so they’re confident you heard and understood what they said.
Maybe you go home after a long day of work, and your partner begins to complain about their day. Even though you’re exhausted, the best thing you can do for the relationship is to listen. Acknowledge that you heard and processed what they’re going through by paraphrasing.
You could follow up on the first example by asking what potential bumps or changes you might encounter and how you’ll handle them. For the second example, you might try asking your partner how they feel or what they think they should do about the situation.
Paraphrasing is an excellent way to ensure there aren’t misunderstandings down the road, too.
People Who Listen Have More Influence and Empathy
The more effectively one listens, the more knowledge they acquire. Active listening reveals many things about a speaker pertaining to their objectives, knowledge, beliefs, fears, and attitudes.
The more people feel you listen in the workplace, the more they’ll respect your position. The more people respect you as a professional, the more influence you’ll have.
Empathic listening can bridge two people or a room full of people together. Empathic listening demonstrates a genuine effort to understand and hear another person’s perspective. When you listen with empathy, your coworkers will feel safer, more comfortable, and be able to speak more freely and clearly.
Plus, you’ll gain influence, respect, and understanding as a leader.
Listening Skills and Leadership Go Hand In Hand
When someone demonstrates good listening skills and leadership, there’s no telling what they can accomplish. Active listening not only helps you understand and see whoever is speaking, but it also helps you gain their trust and respect.
Asking open questions, engaging, and paraphrasing will ensure you don’t hit more bumps or misunderstandings down the road.
When you use good listening skills like eye contact and body language to hear and process what you’re listening to, you’ll set yourself up for success in your relationships and through your professional workload.
Would you like to improve your listening skills and gain more influence? Leadership communication skills can help you develop and master effective listening skills in all aspects of your life.