People receive an influx of information on a daily basis, especially with the digital acceleration that the world is experiencing today. Aside from being able to search for virtually anything on the web, people have been relying on video conferencing and other virtual means to communicate with one another since the global lockdown last year. This also brought about the consequence of “Zoom fatigue” or the psychological fatigue from the constant use of these tools.
As such, people are more pressed for time than ever to keep up with the flow of information. Some would opt to multitask in receiving information – like reading an email during a meeting – as an attempt to stay relevant. While individuals are constantly on the lookout for new information, it also distracts them from the present and turns them into ineffective listeners. Even in communicating, others would anticipate what will be said and prioritize what their response will be instead of listening to the other party.
Despite being an essential skill, listening is currently overlooked by most. In fact, there are studies that point to the idea of listening as a skill that people are losing due to several reasons that can act as listening barriers, like visual distractions, impatience, and even an overall sense of superiority over the speaker. Due to these factors, people are susceptible to misunderstandings, which may lead to poor decision-making and dissolve relationships.
To avoid this from happening, it is imperative that one should practice being an active listener. Doing so will help you understand and retain what is being said while also showing that the other party is recognized and respected. This is not only to build stronger relationships but also to lessen misunderstandings and become more effective in maintaining information.
Techniques in active listening
Being an active listener doesn’t only entail that a person listens. Rather, it is a conscious effort to provide one’s full attention to understand and empathize with the speaker. Here are a few ways that will help you become a better listener:
- Let them speak. More often than not, people preoccupy themselves with their judgments while another person is talking by evaluating what is being said and prioritizing their own response. Instead of doing this, hold your judgment, keep an open mind, and let the other person finish what they want to say without interrupting to see their point of view. This will also help you widen your perception and open up the avenue for you to learn something new.
- Be fully present. Contrary to what people may think, multitasking does not guarantee an increase in productivity. For example, having conversations with other people while doing something else is not only counterproductive but shows a lack of respect for the other person. Avoid distractions like reading your emails or doing other tasks when you are having a conversation with a person to give the speaker your full attention.
- Actions speak louder. A person’s body language can express a lot more than what can be said. Crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or fidgeting may signal to the speaker that you are disagreeing or not listening to them. Meanwhile, providing eye contact, leaning in, or nodding your head occasionally will let them know that you are paying attention.
- Clarify and summarize. Once the speaker is done, it is encouraged to repeat or paraphrase their thoughts, so they know that you understood what they meant. This also gives you an avenue to ask questions or clarify what has been said. Doing so opens the conversation more and reduces miscommunication between you and the speaker.
While the world is constantly racing to get to the next big thing, it is important to take the time and listen. As such, active listening is an indispensable skill that can help build relationships in and out of the workplace. By practicing these steps, you can become more patient and empathetic, as well as improve your leadership skills.