The Importance and Benefits of Active Listening

by Bev Sinclair, Human Resource Services Consultant, MBA, SPHR-CA

Bulletin,  Performance Management

Have you ever worked for a manager who did not take the time to listen to you? Picture this, you walk into your manager’s office and ask if you can speak with him. He says yes, but proceeds to pound away on the keyboard. You ask if he would prefer to speak another time and he says, “I’m listening!” How would you feel? You may feel unimportant, or, at the very least, you may feel that your manager does not care to hear what you have to say. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs all too frequently in the workplace and is detrimental to the manager-employee relationship as well as productivity and morale.

Listening is said to be the earliest communication skill humans acquire, but the least understood. Active listening is the highest form of listening. How can managers become masters of active listening? We can make a conscious effort to do more than simply hear. We can:

Give the speaker our full attention. This means taking time out from our current task to show the speaker that we care about what they have to say.

Give good eye contact.

Listen for the speaker’s main points.

Show we are listening by leaning forward, nodding, or giving verbal signals for the speaker to continue such as, “yes” and “uh-huh.”

Don’t interrupt. If we are speaking, we cannot listen with our full attention.

Wait for the speaker to pause before asking clarifying questions.

Respond appropriately and recap main points to be sure you have a clear understanding of the message.

When listening to others, it is also important to listen without emotion and react only to the message.

By practicing active listening, we can reduce errors, increase performance, improve teamwork, increase trust, resolve problems, and improve our manager-employee relationships—all of which will positively influence the bottom line of our organization.

About the author
Bev Sinclair, Human Resource Services Consultant, MBA, SPHR-CA