Active Listening, the Most Important Communication Skill

March 17, 2022 by  

Hearing is an ability unless one is hearing impaired, but Listening is an art and needs to be learned. It requires focus and concentration as well as understanding all the interferences that impact our ability to listen well. In addition, in order to get good at it, one must practice it.
We are not mind readers so cannot tell if someone is really listening to us, even if they look as if they are because we are not mind readers and so have no idea what they heard. That is why one needs to get concrete feedback from the “listener” to discover what they did hear.

Do not ask them if they understood you because they will always answer yes because they do not want you to think that they were not paying attention or that they are not very smart.

Here is the question to ask: “What do you think I expect of you?” If they can answer that question, they can show you that they in fact did hear what you told them, otherwise, you will not get what you want or need and that causes resentment, disappointment, and stress, which during this pandemic is the last thing we need.

Because we are not mind readers we do not know if they are not feeling well, are too hot, too cold or uncomfortable in another way. We do not know if they have a problem of their own that they are worrying about or trying to solve and all of those issues will super cede anything you might want them to hear. In addition, never “assume” as that makes an ass out of you and me and you cannot be sure that they did hear you unless you get some good feedback. So again, if you are assuming you will not likely get what you are expecting or needing.

If you have an important conversation to have with a person or persons, try to have it in a location without distractions like people walking in and out, side talking, construction or traffic noises, business machines like faxes or telephones ringing or even copiers working. All of those distractions make it very difficult for a person to concentrate on what you are trying to tell them so you will not likely get what you want.

Again, just because someone is looking at you while you are speaking you cannot be sure they are listening and heard what you wanted them to hear, unless you get some good feedback that tells you that they were listening and did hear what you needed them to hear.

Sadly, we are not taught how to listen, and again, hearing and listening are not the same. As I already mentioned, listening requires concentration and focus and if that is not exercised it is very difficult to receive a message fully. Most people think they are good listeners but honestly, few actually are because they do not know how it works.  It is too bad that listening is not taught to children and adults so that they can do it effectively and reduce resentment, disappointment and stress.

In order to be a good team leader, or a leader of any sort, or a professional of any sort, one must be a good listener in order to learn about your team members, your patients, even your customers. If we listen well, we can learn what matters to them, what concerns them and what they may be seeking and can help them get what they want and help them to improve their health or increase their abilities and knowledge. Especially when something goes wrong, it is so important to listen so that we can fix the problem and make the person happy again. Without active listening we will miss opportunities and not get what we need or want……that is why you need to ask for feedback from the supposed listener.
Again, active listening is really the most important communication skill as it can prevent so many problems before they happen.


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