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Becoming an effective listener

schedule 21st June 2018 by Fiona Sheen in Virtual College Last updated on 4th July 2018


Time and time again, when studies are conducted into what makes for a harmonious, productive and effective workplace, communication comes out as one of the most important factors. Part of good communication is the ability to listen. Peers, employees, and those senior to you will all feel that you communicate better when you know how to properly listen and respond, making this a valuable skill. Understanding and taking in what everyone else is saying will also quite simply help you to do your own job better too. In this article, we’re going to consider a few of the top tips that can help you become an effective listener - even if you already think you are.

Focus your attention

This one is probably the most obvious, but it’s also likely the most important. If you’re going to be an effective listener, then you must make sure that when you’re involved in a conversation with them – even a minor one – that you give the other person your whole attention. Half listening can mean you don’t take in everything that they say, which of course means that you aren’t actually being a good listener. Even if you feel like you can half listen while doing something else, don’t do it.

The other big benefit of course, is that if you’ve given your full attention to the other person, they’re far more likely to feel like you’ve listened. Some of us can indeed multitask and are able to listen to someone speak while penning a quick email, but this really won’t show the other person that you’ve listened well. People like to feel that you value and are interested in what they are saying, and giving them your full attention shows this. Make eye contact where possible, and be relaxed and open. Body language can say a lot.

Let the conversation flow

Nobody likes to be interrupted, so don’t be tempted to do it unless absolutely necessary. Think about how annoying it would be if someone cut you off mid-way through a sentence, and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is especially true when dealing with employees below you that might not have as much knowledge as you do – it might take them longer to explain something, or they might cover something you already know, but let them continue unless you really need to steer the conversation elsewhere. It can also be daunting for some people to engage in conversation with their supervisors and managers. While we’re on this point, it’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t rush people – don’t finish their sentences if there isn’t a natural pause.

Be engaged

We’ve already mentioned the importance of giving your attention to the other person speaking, but it’s always a good idea to go one step further than that by properly engaging with what they are saying. Where there are pauses or questions, demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation by repeating things as you interpret them, or asking questions that prompt the other person to continue or clarify. Helping the other person to find a solution or feel as though they’ve come away from the conversation with something resolved is one of the best results of being a good listener. Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to stay quiet for the entire conversation, and that’s an important skill to learn.

At Virtual College, we offer a number of courses designed to help managers and senior business leaders excel in their roles. This includes the Introduction to Listening course, which is designed to help people build better working relationships. Click here to be taken to the course page for more information.

Fiona Sheen for Virtual College

Author: Fiona Sheen

Fiona is a Learning Technology Consultant with Virtual College and has over 20 years of experience in customer service and relationship management in various industries. A graduate from Aberdeen University, Fiona enjoys baking, reading and running in her spare time.

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