You know how to listen,it’s a matter of hearing the person speaking. However, that isn’t really active listening. Active listening is more than simply hearing the speaker, it’s an essential skill that can help you become more successful in life and in business.

Active listening is an easy skill to learn and practice in your daily life. You’ll enjoy many benefits from active listening in both your personal and professional life.

What is active listening?

Active listening is more than hearing the words another person speaks. When you’re actively listening, you focus on the person speaking, comprehend what they’re saying and provide a thoughtful response to what they said. When you’re an active listener, you are able to provide a thorough response to the speaker, and it helps you recall the details of a conversation more easily.

Many times, when someone else is speaking, you’re deciding on what you’re going to say when the other person stops. This isn’t active listening. As an active listener, you focus on both the non-verbal and verbal information the speaker is providing you. Once you’ve actively listened to the other speaker, it’s easier to address their concerns or talk about their ideas.

Benefits of active listening

The more you practice active listening the easier it becomes. Active listening is like any other skill, you get better with time and practice. Once you’re actively listening to others, you’ll find a host of benefits, including:

Develop Trust and Build Relationships

From personal experience, you’ve probably already noticed that you feel more positive when people appear to be intently listening to and understanding what you are saying. With active listening, the speaker feels like you’re completely focused on them and their needs. They feel like you’re tuned into them on an emotional level. These feelings can help build a bond of trust and create a relationship.

From a new client to your kid’s soccer coach, a person, who believes that you’re truly listening to them, will provide you with more information and share things with you that they wouldn’t share with others. In business, it can help you build good working relationships with your coworkers and develop a list of loyal clients who only work with and buy from you.

Avoid Miscommunication

If you aren’t actively listening, it’s easy to hear only part of what the other person is saying. When you only hear a piece of what the other person is saying, it’s easy to have a misunderstanding or a conflict.

Active listening makes it easier to hear the message that the speaker is offering. If you only hear snippets of the spoken words and pay attention to a few of the non-verbal cues, you miss a lot of the message. Your imagination puts together what you think the speaker said and not what was actually said. This can lead to miscommunications and conflicts.

Defuse tensions and conflicts

Sometimes, we talk to others about intense topics. During these discussions, active listening can help to reduce tensions and minimize the conflict. The listener may hear something they don’t like in their argument when you paraphrase what they just said.

At the very least, the fact that you’re actively listening will resonate with them and help them see that you value them even if you don’t agree with their opinion or argument. This can help stop tensions from spiraling into a full-fledged argument. You can’t make others abandon their views, but you can ease the tension during a heated discussion.

Increase Your Productivity

How many boring meetings have you sat through that seem to go on for days? Active listening is a highly-valued skill in an employee, and you’ll find it a valuable tool during your workday.

When you’re an active listener sitting in that boring, long-winded meeting, you come out of the meeting knowing the tasks you’re expected to perform. You don’t waste time verifying what you need to do with your immediate supervisor or sending out emails for more clarification on your tasks. When you’re more productive at work, the right people notice.

Tips for developing your active listening skills

Active listening is a skill like any other. You have to practice all the time to master it. When you’re first learning to become an active listener, you might need some tips to help you stay on task and focus on the speaker each time someone else talks. Here are a few tips to help you develop the habit of active listening.

Paraphrase and repeat

As an active listener, it’s beneficial, especially when you first start building your skill, to paraphrase what the speaker said and repeat it back to them. In order to do this, you must focus on what the speaker said to begin with.

It also helps to show the speaker that you were actively listening to what they said and encourages them to listen to you. It can also help to deescalate a tense situation because the person speaking knows that you’re hearing them. Once you start paraphrasing and repeating, you’ll work harder at active listening, which helps you develop the habit.

Look for non-verbal communication

It isn’t enough to actively listen to the words coming from the speaker’s mouth. You need to watch their body language and pay attention to the tone of their voice. For example, if your boss tells you what a great job you did with folded arms and gritted teeth, they probably don’t mean it literally.

The goal of active listening is always more clear communication. If you’re only listening to the spoken words, then you may be missing the actual communication. It’s okay if it takes you a few tries to pick up on the non-verbal cues as long as you’re actively looking for them.

Stop Creating a Response While Listening

How many conversations have you had where you’re coming up with what you’re going to say next while the other person is still speaking? If you’re doing this, you aren’t really listening to what the person is saying. Don’t worry many people do the same thing.

You need to train yourself to focus on the speaker and stop yourself if you start thinking of a response. It’s also important to note that if you’re talking to someone on the phone, you might find yourself multitasking. Stop! You need to focus on the speaker only to be an active listener.

Earn a Certificate From UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Active listening is an essential skill in negotiations, and there is a wealth of resources available to help you take control of negotiations and the negotiation process. When you’re ready to learn more and hone your skills at active listening, you can enroll in a Strategic Negotiations online short course to earn a certificate from UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

The course runs for six weeks, and you can work at your own pace, but plan to spend six to seven hours a week to cover the material. Jim Olson, an industry expert, helps you polish your negotiation strategy and guides you in working across the varied cultural understanding of communication.

With this certificate of completion from a top-ranked U.S. university, you’ll have proof of your increased skill level in negotiations and provide you with the confidence you need entering each business meeting.

When you’re looking for a way to develop your professional skills, you need to sign up for UC Davis’s Strategic Negotiations course, in collaboration with GetSmarter. You can find more opportunities and tips to succeed professionally by visiting GetSmarter online or contact us for more information.

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