What is active listening?
How many times have we been told that if something is not working is due to a communication issue? Well then, this claim that we have heard so often happens to be true. It is at all levels, but in professional environments it’s essential to apply the principles of active listening in order to make work more efficient and relationships among colleagues much more fluid.
This is something of anthropological origin. If there’s anything that distinguishes human beings from its biological ancestors, marking its evolution in a sense, is its ability to collectively organize and take advantage of it. This ability defines the beginning of civilization as we have known it for millennia.
A similar thing occurs inside a work environment. In order to achieve professional growth, individuals and organizations should apply interaction principles. We must not forget that we are talking about a two-way road, since active listening is like loyalty: either it is reciprocal or it doesn’t exist at all.
Benefits of active listening at work
The importance of active listening
The reality is this: we are not aware of our own capabilities until they’re put to test. Oddly enough, same applies for others, so the most sensible thing in working environments is to give them the chance to integrate their talent and let it roll into action the right way.
That is where active listening comes into play. When organizations don’t put that sensibility into practice, they’re unable to express themselves effectively either. That’s why in order to get the best version of each member of the team, the first task an inspiring leader should perform is precisely that, listening.
Characteristics of active listening in the workplace
Implementing a culture of paying active attention requires developing a clear method based on empathy, in other words, knowing how to comprehend the convictions, challenges and also the fears of others. As Donoso Cortés said, “what is important is not to listen but to find out what the other thinks”.
Empathy as a tool to read between the lines
In other words, empathy is crucial for a leader or manager in order to answer the demands, concerns, fears and worries of his team or colleagues, not only for what they say but also for how they say it. Knowing how to read between the lines of someone’s words is an essential value if we want our listening process to meet the reality of that individual.
Therefore, we shouldn’t cheat on active listening. Most of all, we should not adapt the others’ vision to our logic, to the conclusions we have set beforehand, by manipulating the legitimate criterion of others with dialectical wit which is only trying to hide arrogance and intellectual laziness.
The importance of attitude
There are several other rules to follow when seeking active perception of the environment: body language is important, be it ours (an indolent attitude does not contribute to communication) or our conversation partner’s: allowing the other to speak is essential, let go of automated responses which turn the process into something useless, keep smartphones, computers or any other distraction away while engaging in a conversation…
Each work team must come up with its own formula to turn active listening and empathy into effective tools. Avoiding this challenge entails taking a great risk: to be ignorant about what could have happened if other different, wiser path was taken.