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How to Become an Active Listener

By Miranda Lindsey, Volunteer.

Source: Edge

In order to meet your goals in your workplace and be an effective and valued employee, you will need to communicate with and listen to the requests and feedback of customers, supervisors, colleagues, and all of the people with whom you come into contact.

It is important to develop your active listening abilities to be successful in meeting the communication needs of your role. But, active listening is more than just hearing the information that is being said; active listening involves really working to understand and retain the information that someone is sharing with you.

Active listening makes customers feel more confident that their needs are being met, and will cut down on mistakes made and time wasted in the process of addressing their requests. There are four key steps to becoming an active listener: Attend, Care, Question, and Share.

Step 1: Attend

In order to be actively listening, you must first ensure that your energy is completely focused on listening to the person speaking, without interrupting. You may also consider taking mental or physical notes to help you keep track of information that is complicated or difficult to remember. Some people value and promote multitasking, but when it comes to active listening, it is important to provide your full attention to listening. Mistakes and misunderstandings are likely to happen when you are not focused on listening. And especially in customer service positions, focusing on what the customer is saying helps them feel that their needs are being cared for.

It is important to note that as you are listening, you must wait until the person is done speaking to share your responses, thoughts, or ideas. Interrupting a person can make them feel shut down or unimportant, and you need to hear all of the details of their situation before you respond.

Step 2: Care

Empathy is vital to active listening, as it allows you to understand other people and put yourself in their shoes and make them feel like you genuinely care about their concerns. Even if you do not completely agree with a person, it is important to avoid judgement and try to understand where they are coming from when you are addressing their requests and concerns. If you think about what they have experienced and how they are feeling, you can imagine how you would like to be treated if you were in their situation.

While you should definitely verbally express that you care about the subject of discussion, nonverbal behaviors can be just as important to express your care for the situation. You may use body language to show that you are listening and paying attention by facing them, looking them directly in the eye, and nodding and smiling as they speak.

Step 3: Question

In order to demonstrate that you are actively listening and to ensure that you are understanding things correctly, it may be helpful to ask follow-up questions when a person has finished speaking. There are several different types of questions to use in this situation, the first being an open-ended question. Open-ended questions are those that start a conversation or get someone to share their thoughts. For example, “How can we improve our online website for you?” would be an example of an open-ended question. They cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” like a close-ended question.

If you want to know more about someone’s response, you would ask a clarifying question, which would encourage that person to give you more details. An example of a clarifying question would be, “You mentioned that you had an issue accessing this page on our website, can you tell me more about what happened when you clicked on the page link?” Once you have all of the details and information necessary, you will want to ask summary questions that will allow you to be sure that you understand completely. You will do this by restating what you heard the person say and asking them if your recollections are correct and complete.

Step 4: Share

The final step of active listening is to share what you are planning on doing with the information that you have received. Especially in a customer service role, telling the customer the next steps you are going to take to resolve their problem gives them reassurance that you understood their request. Sharing the next steps with the customer also helps you make sure you heard everything correctly and understood their requests and concerns.

Active listening is helpful in any role or profession. By listening actively, you will be decreasing the mistakes you make while responding to requests and addressing concerns. People will enjoy working with you more and you’re more likely to advance in your job because your active listening makes people feel that you genuinely care about the information that they share with you.

Did you know that clients of Suited for Change are able to access the Edge platform and its various courses in Leadership and Professional Development (including this one) at no cost?

The information in this blog post is sourced from the Active Listening course available to all Suited for Change clients through SFC’s partnership with Edge.

Clients are able to access this module and many other career development modules for free at the “Client Resources” page on Suited for Change’s website. Following completion of each module, clients are provided a professional certificate of completion which they can share with companies on their resume to demonstrate their knowledge of these skills and techniques.

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Miranda Lindsey

About Miranda Lindsey:

Miranda Lindsey is a SFC volunteer and a recent graduate of the Master of International Affairs program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She is passionate about service, and excited about the positive impact she can make in her community through her work with SFC.


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