Good communication in a team is the foundation for the effective use of resources and building a friendly atmosphere in the workplace. According to the statistics, as many as 86% of employees point to a lack of communication and cooperation as the main cause of failure. What steps should be taken to avoid this? How can active listening in the workplace increase team productivity? Read on to find out more.
Why is active listening important in the workplace? – table of contents:
- What is active listening?
- Signs of active listening
- Active listening in the workplace
- Active listening in a remote environment
What is active listening?
Active listening takes place when we consciously focus on what the other person is saying. Contrary to passive listening, we pay attention to the other person’s words, instead of concentrating on our surroundings or our own thoughts.
The definition of this term can be found in the 1987 publication titled “Active listening.” Authors Carl R. Rogers and Richard E. Farson give the following explanation of the concept:
“Active listening is an important way to bring about changes in people. Despite the popular notion that listening is a passive approach, clinical and research evidence clearly shows that sensitive listening is a most effective agent for individual personality change and group development. Listening brings about changes in people’s attitudes toward themselves and others; it also brings about changes in their basic values and personal philosophy. People who have been listened to in this new and special way become more emotionally mature, more open to their experiences, less defensive, more democratic, and less authoritarian.”
According to this definition, active listening improves communication. The other person feels listened to, which builds a better relationship and creates a sense of trust and appreciation. What is more, active listening allows you to make the most of the conversation. By focusing on the other person’s words, we can remember more information and avoid distraction.
Signs of active listening
How will the other person know that you are actively listening to what they are saying? They will read your verbal and nonverbal cues. Verbal signs of active listening include:
- Asking the right questions – by asking open-ended questions, we encourage the other person to continue the conversation, and show that we are really listening to what they are saying. However, it is important not to raise issues that are not relevant to the given topic or to which an answer has already been provided – otherwise we will only deny that we are active listeners.
- Paraphrasing and summarizing – the other person will notice your involvement if you paraphrase their words, i.e. rephrase what was said by the other party, or if you decide to summarize the topic in a few key points.
Other verbal signs of active listening include interjecting short phrases, such as “yes”, “you’re right”. However, it is not advisable to use them too often, as our reactions should be natural, not forced.
While actively listening, do not interrupt the speaker, change the subject, or judge and question their statements – this will discourage them from further discussion and make them feel unappreciated.
Of course, the views of both parties may differ, so keeping an open mind and trying to understand the other person’s perspective is essential. It is also recommended to mute your phone before the conversation and remember the name of the person you will talk to.
Non-verbal signals are sometimes easier to show, and they include:
- Eye contact – avoiding eye contact with the other person may confuse them and make them wonder if you are actually listening. Instead, try to look at them in a friendly manner and try to create a bond with them.
- Nodding and smiling – making eye contact alone can be a bit awkward and distracting for the other party. So it’s also worth smiling and nodding – these are natural, unforced reactions indicating that we are satisfied with the conversation. In this way, we show that we want the other person to continue speaking.
- Posture – the way you behave during a conversation says a great deal about your engagement. Standing still or fidgeting excessively may suggest that you are bored. On the other hand, leaning slightly toward the person shows that you are focused on what they are saying.
Active listening in the workplace
Effective communication can increase team productivity by up to 25%. Active listening in the workplace can also bring other benefits, such as:
- Building trust – employees are more likely to share their ideas, observations or problems with a person who will listen to them and not judge or interrupt what they are saying. Trust also translates into mutual respect and better relationships. Working in such an environment makes employees feel more motivated and aware of their goals.
- Understanding business needs – listening to employees and understanding their needs will help management make the necessary changes and identify areas for improvement, which will result in greater team productivity and business growth. They will sometimes be organizational needs, and sometimes they will concern a specific employee (e.g., their further training in a selected area).
- Avoiding misunderstandings – active listening requires being open to others, even if they have different opinions or points of view. This will help us avoid misunderstanding the other person’s intentions, or saying something we didn’t really mean. A full picture of the situation will let you make smart decisions.
Active listening in a remote environment
Being part of a virtual team is no longer surprising. Remote and hybrid work dominate in the business environment, which not only HR departments and project managers, but also employees themselves have to deal with. A great convenience are dedicated platforms, such as Firmbee, which allow you to track project progress, assign tasks to individual team members, control receipts and expenses, and store necessary documentation in one place.
However, delegating tasks alone is not enough to make employees feel part of the company. It is necessary to ensure good communication, which is often missing in a virtual environment. Therefore, you should take every opportunity to use the benefits of active listening. How to do it?
- Plan video meetings – ask everyone to have their webcams on during the meeting so that participants can watch the coworkers’ nonverbal cues.
- Reduce distractions – ask participants to mute devices that could disrupt the conversation and not to respond to messages (e-mail, SMS, etc.) during the meeting.
- Ask not to be interrupted while speaking – interrupting someone may not only imply a lack of respect for the other person, but also, especially in online meetings, lead to confusion. To avoid this, ask colleagues to refrain from making comments until the participant has finished speaking.
- Do a quick recap – summarize everything you learned from your colleagues. In this way, you will prove that you actively listened to them, and that you are open to their ideas, suggestions and ready to help them with any problem.
Active listening in the workplace is very important as it fosters mutual respect and builds trust. Such an atmosphere encourages employees to be more committed to their tasks and more productive. Active listening has a direct impact on establishing better communication, thanks to which, it is easier to spot risks, problems and make better decisions.
Read also: What is asynchronous communication?