One of the main causes of a breakdown in communication is the lack of listening. People feel unsupported and unimportant when they feel that they are not being listened to and if asked, many people would feel that they listen well!
Let us look at listening in the context of the workplace. Many organisations believe that they provide a culture and environment where people feel that they can speak up and be heard, however we also know that statistically speaking, this is not always the case.
Leaders and managers need to recognise and acknowledge what their employees need and want and asking and listening are ways to do this. True listening and understanding are imperative skills but sometimes neglected in the workplace. The cost of poor listening and employees not feeling recognised, heard, or understood can lead to decreased productivity, job dissatisfaction, low commitment, burnout, or even seeking out work with another organisation they believe will value them (Pery et al., 2020).
The culture of any organisation is built on lots of individual actions and therefore it is understandable that it is the everyday interactions where a person may need to adopt active listening skills when conversing with another person. Here is a comprehensive list of points of how to start.
- Focus on the intent and purpose of the conversation – try and keep to the point but remain flexible.
- Pay attention to body language – how somebody carries themselves can tell you a lot about a present mood.
- Give encouraging verbal cues and maintain eye contact but not too intensely!
- Clarify and paraphrase information – this shows that you are indeed listening and are interested.
- Ask questions to gain clarity and understanding from your point of view, especially if you have actions to take from the conversation.
- Refraining from judgment, although very tough at times, is important.
- Summarise, share, and reflect.
Another point to remember when conversing with people is the ultimate one…
Seek first to understand before being understood.
Every conversation needs to be a two-way process but not every conversation needs to be equal in terms of time speaking or getting one’s point across. If done correctly, allowing a person space to speak, and be heard can create an environment of honesty, empathy and understanding which is surely a wonderful place to work.