Developing Active Listening Skills

With Aimee Bateman

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Developing Active Listening Skills


Active listening is a great way to *really* hear what someone says. There are a few ways you can really hone these skills to understand the complete message someone is giving you. And, if you are a better listener you'll find it easier to influence and persuade people not to mention forge better working relationships with your co workers.  

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Hi, I'm Aimee Bateman, career coach and founder of Careercake.

In this video, we're going to talk about active listening because we've all experienced it; where we've been on the phone, we're talking to somebody and then when we finish our sentence, there’s total silence and we realise that the other person wasn't actually listening to us. Or you could have been talking to one of your colleagues about a situation that you've experienced and then when you pause, take a breath, they come in straight away, cut in with a similar situation that they've experienced that, actually, was nothing like your situation. And then you realise that they weren't really listening to you at all. They were just waiting for you to pause so that they could tell you about their story. So they were listening. Absolutely. But not to hear you, not to understand you, just to know when they could start talking.

And that can feel really annoying. It's not a nice feeling because you think - "Well that person doesn't really care what you think; they don't really value what you have to say." And in the workplace, I don't want other people to feel like that about you when they're telling you their stories. It's not good for relationship building. I'm sure you don't do that. I'm absolutely sure, but it's always good to just listen or recap on what active listening really is and how you can make sure that you're doing that with people around you.

Now you can absolutely stop what you're doing. Make sure you're not on social media. Make sure you're not reading your emails. Make sure that when they're speaking, they've got your full attention. But there is actually more to it than that. So here are five active listening skills to make you a more effective listener.

So, the first thing is like I just said, stop whatever it is that you're doing and give the listener your full attention. So that might be turning the television off. That might be stopping … you know, put your book down. If you're reading something on your phone, put that down. Or if your phone's on the table, turn your phone over. That's something that I like to do. Turn my phone over, that's a gesture to say you've got my full attention - so make sure that they feel that they have.

So next you can show somebody that you're listening so you can, maybe, lean forward in your chair. You could do lots of nodding and make sure there's lots of eye contact. And if there's no body language going on because you're on the telephone, you can say things like, “I see”, or “Yeah, yeah, I understand”, “Okay, I get you.” Just so that they know you're engaged.

And the third point is to ask some questions. So, when they start telling you about the meeting that they had, you could ask them who the meeting was with or what the meeting was about? And then that shows that you're really fully understanding and setting the scene in your head. Not too many questions, however, if they're trying to tell you a story and they're in their flow and you keep interrupting them with questions, it could be a little bit annoying. But then once you've done that, you can then say something back to them like, “Okay, so you're in a meeting with Mark and John. Okay.” And then let them carry on. That’s a great way for them to feel like you're really listening.

And point four is never judge them. The moment you’re listening to them and you start thinking that you wouldn't have done that, if you were in this situation, you wouldn't have thought that …. What a stupid thing to say to one of their teammates. The second you start thinking about what you would've done in that situation, you've stopped listening. So this isn't about you. This is about them. Make sure that you don't let your mind wander and you stay engaged with what they're saying.

And the fifth thing that you can do when you're having this conversation is at the end of the story, at the end of them telling you about the situation, you can then summarise back to them. So you might just say something like, “So, you met with three of your colleagues to discuss the flexible working policy and you're happy with it. That's great.”

Now there's a really lovely Stephen Covey quote, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Seek first to understand and then be understood. It’s a similar theory to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. We all, in our core DNA, want to feel seen, heard and valued by other people. We all want to be understood and we’re brought up vying for attention - “Mummy, look at me, look at me!” Seeking to understand rather than being understood doesn't come naturally to us. It's a skill that you need to develop. We want to be understood, especially, especially, if we've got a colleague that we're loggerheads with. Or especially if you've got a client disagreement going on, but the more you understand what they're saying, even if you don't agree with it, the process of you listening and seeking to understand will usually soften their position. They're more likely to understand you and take the time to understand you and listen to you because of that.

So do this and not only will you learn stuff about yourself; about other situations, your level of trust and credibility with your colleagues will go through the roof and your professional relationships will absolutely thrive.