Improve Your Listening in the Workplace (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published July 23, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published July 23, 2020

During a meeting or lengthy conversation, it's important that you find ways to direct your attention to who is speaking. By showing that you are understanding what the speaker is saying, you're communicating that you value and respect their ideas and insights. This is a central part of facilitating effective teamwork and open communication. In this article, we discuss the importance of active listening in the workplace and share ways you can improve your listening skills.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

Why active listening in the workplace is important

Active listening in the workplace is important because it's a way to show your coworkers that you value what they have to say. During meetings or brainstorming sessions, active listening can help you fully absorb what others are sharing and think of meaningful ways to add to the conversation. When you show others that you are listening to them, they feel like you respect them. This is an important part of establishing open communication and camaraderie in the workplace.

Related: Building Communication Skills: 9 Types of Listening

How to use active listening at work

Follow these steps to show that you're an active listener at work:

1. Limit distractions

While having a conversation, limit your distractions as much as possible. This means putting your computer to sleep, turning your phone on silent and closing the door to your office. If you are planning a meeting, try to reserve a closed conference room. By limiting excessive noise or interruptions, you can keep your focus directed to the speaker.

Related: How to Improve Your Listening Skills

2. Use the right body language

While someone is talking to you, show them you're listening by using the appropriate body language. A slight head nod, upright posture, smiling and eye contact are all great ways to show you're engaged in a conversation. Along with these nonverbal cues, you can also use verbal affirmations like "okay" and "mhm" to show you're listening. These actions can make the speaker feel more comfortable and inclined to continue to share their thoughts and opinions.

3. Focus on the present

Instead of thinking of a response, truly listen to what the speaker is saying. Try to quiet your thoughts and live in the present moment. When they are finished with their thoughts, you can then try to think of what to add. During a meeting, you could bring along a notebook to jot down any questions you may have so you can focus on the meeting and remember what to ask later. You may find that as the person continues speaking, they answer your initial questions.

4. Look for meaning later

Try to first understand what someone is saying before searching for a deeper meaning. Once you absorb what they said, you can begin to decide if they were conveying any underlying messages. By taking what someone says at face value, you can remember what they said better. As you reflect on the conversation, think about their tone, demeanor and body language.

Related: Q&A: Why Is Communication Important?

5. Summarize what the speaker said

One way to show you understand what someone just told you is to give a brief summary of what they said. While paraphrasing, you could start the sentence with, "From my understanding, you're saying..." This is helpful especially if you misinterpret what they said. It gives the speaker a chance to clarify any points they made.

6. Ask follow-up questions

Asking thoughtful questions is another way to show you're invested in a conversation. When thinking of what to ask, reflect on what the speaker just said so you are only seeking new information. Try to think of questions that help them elaborate on what they just shared. Both specific and open-ended questions are a helpful way to get more information out of the speaker. They may appreciate your questions if they forgot to mention a specific point.

Related: How To Organize and Lead an Effective Business Meeting

Tips for listening in the workplace

These tips can help you improve your listening skills:

  • Allow moments of silence. During a pause in the conversation, let the speaker think of additional things to say. By allowing a moment of silence, you give them an opportunity to think through what they want to share. Instead of filling the gap with your own thoughts, this gives you both the opportunity to think through what they said.

  • Take notes. When someone is explaining something to you, taking shorthand notes can help you remember the information. As you take notes, make sure to regularly look up from your laptop or notebook to show the speaker that you're listening.

  • Show empathy. When someone is sharing something personal or emotional, your response and body language can show your empathy. For example, responding with, "I understand your concerns. Let me help you figure this out," shows them that you truly care.

  • Find balance. If someone is sharing a problem with you, sharing your own experiences can be helpful in small doses. Make sure to still focus on them but to use your own experiences to help them feel your empathy.

  • Try to learn. When going into a meeting or training session, expect to learn something. This attitude can help you make more of an effort to process what the speaker is saying.

  • Recharge your body and mind. When you know you're going to have a long meeting, move around a little bit before it. Light exercise like walking or stretching can get your blood flowing and make you feel more awake. Likewise, getting some fresh air can boost your energy level and help you stay focused.

  • Be honest. If a coworker wants to chat while you're busy or feeling stressed, be honest and let them know now isn't the best time to speak. Plan a time to talk to them later when you can keep your focus on them and not a pressing deadline.

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