Active listening: Listen to learn

Active listening means paying attention to what the other person is saying and responding appropriately. This can help build relationships and understanding between people, as well as reduce conflict. Active listeners will make eye contact, ask questions to clarify points, and provide feedback that shows they are engaged in the conversation. This type of listening helps foster better relationships and strengthens communication.

Two colleagues in a conversation, two other colleagues are working near the pinboard

Benefits of active listening

Active listening has many benefits for both the listener and the speaker. Here are some of the key advantages.

1. Build trust

Active listening helps to build trust between two people or groups, as it shows that one is open and willing to hear the other person out.

2. Foster understanding

Understanding is key to any relationship, and active listening encourages this. People feel they are being heard when someone listens attentively.

3. Improved communication

The communication process is improved when both parties are actively listening. This helps to ensure that each person understands the other's point of view, and can help to reduce misunderstandings that can lead to conflict.

4. Allows for better problem-solving

When both parties are actively listening, it helps to facilitate better problem-solving. By asking questions and clarifying points, participants can work together to find a solution that works for both.

5. Improved opportunity for critical thinking

Active listening also provides an opportunity for critical thinking and analysis of a situation. By fully understanding the other person’s point of view, you can better assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

6. Increased respect

When someone actively listens to another person, it shows that they respect their opinion and ideas. This helps to ensure that all parties feel heard and respected, leading to better relationships.

The basics of active listening

Active listening requires effort and focus. This means that you must be present in the conversation. Below you can find the basics of active listening.

1. Make eye contact

Eye contact is a key part of active listening. It helps to establish trust and shows that you are paying attention to the speaker.

2. Focus on understanding rather than responding

Make sure to really listen to what is being said, rather than just waiting for your turn to talk.

3. Ask questions to clarify any points

Ask questions to clarify any points of confusion or misunderstanding so that both parties are on the same page. When asking a question, use an open-ended question to draw out more information from the speaker in order to further clarify the point.

4. Remain respectful

It’s important to remain respectful and non-judgmental when actively listening to another person.

5. Being aware of non-verbal cues

Active listening also involves being aware of non-verbal cues like facial expressions and body language. This can give you valuable insight into how the other person is feeling, even if they are not saying it in words. This can help you respond to the conversation in a way that is respectful and understanding.

6. Avoid assumptions and judgment

It is important to avoid assumptions and judgment when actively listening. This allows the speaker to express themselves without feeling judged or misinterpreted.

7. Acknowledge emotions

Active listening also involves acknowledging emotions, even if you don't agree with them. This helps to show the other person that their feelings are valid and appreciated.

8. Be patient and allow the conversation to flow naturally

Active listening requires patience, as it allows for a conversation to flow naturally without feeling rushed or forced.

Demonstrate your understanding

Let your conversation partner know that you are actively listening by using these techniques.

1. Provide non-verbal cues

Use non-verbal cues such as nodding, smiling, and maintaining eye contact to show that you are engaged in the conversation.

2. Provide verbal feedback

Verbal feedback helps to show that the listener is engaged in the conversation and paying attention. This can include nods, affirming phrases like "yes" and "I see" or other small sounds of acknowledgement.

3. Reflect and paraphrase

Reflection and paraphrasing can help to ensure that the listener understands what is being said. Reflection involves repeating back what was said, while paraphrasing involves restating the point in your own words.

4. Summarize

At the end of the conversation, you can summarize the conversation to show that you have been actively listening and that you understand the other person's point of view.

Things to take-away

  • By using active listening techniques, we can communicate better and foster stronger relationships with those around us.
  • The basics of active listening involve making eye contact, focusing on understanding rather than responding, asking questions, remaining respectful and avoiding assumptions and judgment.
  • We can demonstrate our understanding of the conversation and show that we care about what is being said by using active listening techniques such as providing non-verbal and verbal cues, reflecting and paraphrasing, and summarizing.

About me

Hi, I’m Lilian. I’m currently the head of a design team in a digital agency in Amsterdam and love to write about leadership and share tips based on my experience over the past couple of years.

Lead by design

I decided to start this blog as a way to share my thoughts on leadership. I’m passionate about helping others learn more about leadership and how to be a good leader, so I hope this blog will be helpful to those who are looking for tips and advice on leadership.

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