How to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

When interviewing stakeholders, it’s important to take time to listen actively to what is being said to avoid missing key requirements.

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There are different approaches to listening which we all engage in from time to time. With inactive listening, you hear the words but don’t actually listen to the words. You are distracted, absent-minded and engaging in “pretend listening”. Selective listening on the other hand, involves hearing what you want to hear and filtering out what you don’t agree with, either consciously or unconsciously. Active listening on the other hand, involves making a conscious effort to understand the entire message that is being conveyed by the speaker. Active listeners observe both words and body language to get to the bottom of what is being communicated. 

Being an active listener requires concentration and effort. Follow these tips, and you’ll be able to listen actively during your engagements with stakeholders:

1) Eliminate any internal distractions you may have

For example, if you are ill or have a lot on your mind, it’s probably best to reschedule the session for a time when you are more relaxed.

2) Eliminate external distractions

If your immediate environment is noisy or you feel you will be interrupted, it’s best to identify a venue that’s more conducive and less prone to interruptions.

3) Prepare ahead of the meeting so that you don’t lose track of what is being discussed.

Even better if you have a list of questions you would like answers to. This will ensure that your interest is sustained throughout the interview session

4) Keep an open mind, and turn off any mental filters you may have.

As humans, we often have filters set up in our minds, based on our individual perceptions and beliefs. 

5) Change your body position if you have trouble focusing during the course of the interview or meeting.

One way to avoid discomfort setting in is to hold the interview session over a manageable period of time. An excessively lengthy session may lead to loss of interest and focus both on your part and the stakeholders’.

6) Maintain eye contact with the speaker and always try to identify how they feel about the subject that is being discussed.

This way, you would always have the total picture of the message they are conveying