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Active Listening: Benefits and Tips to Improve

Is there a difference between hearing and listening?

Research has proven that the average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words a day. But how many of these words do we truly understand?

There is an important difference between hearing and listening. We shouldn't assume that if someone hears us that automatically means they understand what we are saying.

In this blog post, we'll cover what active listening is, why it's important, the benefits of using active listening and top tips to improve your active listening skills. 

People sitting and discussing the benefits of active listening and how to improve

What is Active Listening?

Active listening means focusing on listening to respond, instead of replying. This means comprehending the information and focusing on fully understanding the message before responding.

You may sometimes catch yourself in a conversation with someone where you're so busy thinking of your next point, question or making assumptions, that you forget to actually listen to what that person is saying. This is listening to reply, not respond. 

Active listening may not come naturally to all of us, as you need to know how to devote energy to the conversation and show empathy and investment in what the speaker is sharing with you. 

Why is Active Listening Important?

Active listening is referred to as a soft skill that can be useful in many situations, especially in the workplace. Using active listening is a great way to develop trust between you and your team members, encourage greater collaboration and understand other peoples' feelings. 

Now that we're in a digital workplace, knowing how to listen attentively is crucial for getting work done and collaborating effectively. An Accenture report concluded that 96% of people think they're good listeners, but people only retain roughly half of what is said. 

How do You Use Active Listening in Conversation?

Active listening can involve making sounds that indicate attentiveness, as well as giving feedback in the form of a paraphrased rendition of what has been said by the speaker - also known as reflecting.

Another way to use active listening in a conversation is through following. The idea of following is to create space for them to speak, and explain what they want to say without interruptions. This is where it's key to use silence to your advantage and reduce the number of questions you ask. 

Conversations without active listening often consist of a faster pace with rapid questions bouncing from one person to another. This lack of attentive listening encourages interruptions, people talking over each other and even misunderstandings. 

4 Benefits of Using Active Listening

1. Gain more in-depth information

You will get the opportunity to gain more information as a listener. Active listening acts as a motivation to elaborate on the topic in greater depth.

2. People feel “heard”

As a listener when you focus on fully understanding the message of the speaker it will positively influence your relationship. It also means speakers will enjoy talking to you more and it can build a trusting and ‘open’ environment.

3. Conflict resolution

Active listening can help solve misunderstandings and prevent disputes. This is a great skill to have because misunderstandings are common between employees, clients or senior management. Discover 7 proven ways to develop your communication skills.

4. Better outcomes

Clear communication with others is important to understand and respond in the best way. In the world of business, active listening can help you achieve excellent outcomes as well as avoid frustration.

Learn how to improve your communication within your team.

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4 Top Tips to Improve Your Active Listening

1. Use nonverbal communication to show you are listening

Your body language tells your listener what you really think without using verbal communication. Ensure that you face the speaker, use appropriate eye contact and think about your posture - use open body language and show that you're listening by leaning forward. 

Take a look at the graphic below to make sure you're giving off the right body language to your listener. 

non verbal communication body language types

2. Don't plan what to say next 

This might sound a little silly, but if you're having a conversation with someone and you're planning your next comment or question, the conversation won't flow naturally.

Active listening is all about listening to understand, not just reply. The conversation will flow much more smoothly if you try not to overthink your next words.

3. Don't interrupt

No one likes being interrupted, so don't do it to your speaker. It gives off the impression that you think your words or opinions are more important than theirs or you don't have the patience to listen to what they have to say.

Even if you come up with a great idea or new thought while they're mid-sentence, take the time to slow down, think about your actions and let them finish expressing themselves.

4. Stay focused on their words and nonverbal communication

If you're finding it difficult to follow along with what someone is saying, try to stay focused by repeating the words they've said in your head. If you're having an important conversation, it might help to take the conversation into a private space where you won't be distracted or interrupted.

Turn your phone off too - there's nothing worse than a buzzing phone during a conversation. You can get to your notifications after!

Master Verbal Communication With Our Interactive Courses

Whether you want to speak with more impact, work on your body language skills or communicate more effectively in a hybrid working environment, we've got a range of courses to suit your every need. View our upcoming courses and save your place

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