In today’s high-stakes, high-speed, high-stress business world, we emphasize the importance of the ability to concisely convey information in writing or words, but the ability to receive information is equally worthy of our attention.
Listening is one of the most powerful skills that any business analyst can have in his or her toolbox, and the technique of active listening has been helping business professionals become better listeners since Carl Rogers and Richard Farson coined the term “active listening” in 1987.
Goals of Active Listening
Only a few other skills are as useful as listening. People who are good at listening find it easier to build relationships, understand others, and resolve problems without creating animosity. Business analysts who spend their days listening to project sponsors, stakeholders, developers, and managers know better than anyone else how important it is to not only be understood but also understand others. What’s more, listening actively can help you become better at your work, without the need to seek the same clarification over and over again.
Business Dictionary defines active listening as the act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech. Active listening strives to accomplish several goals: ensure that the listener understands what the speaker has said, give appropriate feedback to the speaker to encourage further communication, and establish rapport between the speaker and the listener.
How To Actively Listen
If you recognize that you could benefit from the potential benefits of active listening, there are five basic listening habits you should strive to imbibe.
1. Pay Attention
The speaker deserves your undivided attention—otherwise you might as well end the conversation altogether and spend your time in a more productive manner. To indicate to the speaker that he or she has your attention, maintain eye contact, put aside distracting thoughts, and really try to understand what the other person is trying to say, instead of focusing on only the words used.
2. Be Involved & Use Open Body Language
Open body language is inviting and encourages the speaker to be more frank and direct, which saves everyone’s time. You can also express your involvement by occasionally nodding, smiling or using other facial expressions, and frequently uttering encouraging words and phrases, such as “Really?” or “I see” without interrupting the speaker.
3. Reflect On What’s Being Said
Sometimes, our personal opinions and preconceived notions can profoundly distort the meaning of the message the person we’re speaking with is trying to convey. To prevent this from happening, it’s paramount to reflect on what’s being said by asking clarifying questions and summarizing the speaker’s comments.
4. Don’t Judge
It’s human nature to dislike being judged. When participating in a conversation, it can be difficult and sometimes even irritating, to refrain from judging the speaker we disagree with, but it’s important to realize that voicing disagreement by uttering judgmental statements is unproductive and creates hostility.
5. Respond Appropriately
Appropriate responses make the other person feel respected and understood. They never put the other person down nor prevent him or her from responding again. Regardless of whether your response is positive or negative, you should always be open, honest, and respectful.
In the world of Twitter messages, two-sentence memos, and PowerPoint bullet points, active listening is helping professionals better communicate with their colleagues by preaching the merits of practising these five basic listening tenets.