Career Development

How to Actively Listen to Get Ahead at Work

Being an active listener is a valuable soft skill for everyday life and in the workplace. Active listening can benefit you in a wide variety of situations, including interviews, company meetings and conversations with clients. This skill can also help you show that you care for the needs of others in your workplace. This article will review how you can use active listening skills to help you succeed at work.

What is active listening?

Active listening is the act of fully concentrating on and comprehending what someone else is telling you. This skill involves giving the speaker your full attention, displaying your interest in the conversation and responding appropriately. When you develop your ability to actively listen, you can help develop positive relationships with your coworkers and excel in your career.

How to actively listen to other people 

Follow these steps to actively listen to other people at work and to improve your active listening skills:

1. First, find opportunities to practice active listening

Strong active listening skills can benefit you as early as the interview process. Hiring managers look for candidates with strong social skills in addition to relatable experience, and you can easily demonstrate your interpersonal skills with active listening. 

Once you’ve passed your interview and started your job, continue to practice listening actively throughout the workday. Most jobs require teamwork, and teams always accomplish more when their members understand and respect one another. You can help build this understanding among your team by using active listening skills to connect with your coworkers.

If you regularly work with customers or clients, active listening can help you earn their trust. If someone is coming to you to meet a need of some kind, it’s important to make them feel understood and cared for. Carefully listening to what they need and responding well gives you the opportunity to practice your active listening skills and develop a good relationship with that person.

2. Second, ask the right questions 

Asking good questions displays interest in what someone is saying and a desire to learn more. 

Direct and specific questions are best. If your questions are specific to the topic you’re talking about, you’re showing interest in it, and you’re demonstrating a deeper understanding of the matter. Asking specific questions shows that you’re following the conversation. 

Include unique information in your questions. When you’re talking with a fellow employee or client about an issue, use the appropriate names and specific information. For example, consider a conversation with your coworker where they mention the pressure they’re feeling to submit a project on time. If you ask what the project’s about and why they’re concerned about their deadline, you’re showing that you truly care about their situation.

3. Third, respond out loud when speaking with other people

A response that shows you agree is called a verbal affirmation. Using these during conversation takes some practice, but it can become an important part of active listening. To use verbal affirmations, you can react appropriately to what the other person says. If your team member comes up with a new method to organize your office, for example, let them know that you think it’s a good idea.

Active listening means that you’re truly invested in the conversation, so make sure you give the other person plenty of time to say everything they need to. While verbal affirmations can help show your interest, taking a few moments to listen without interrupting helps you show your client or coworker that they have your undivided attention.

4. Then, pay attention to your body language

The way you hold and position your body has an impact on the interest you’re showing in a conversation. Using positive body language will show interest and can even help you listen better. Your mind often follows your body’s cues.

To show that you’re listening, maintain an open stance with your arms uncrossed. Keeping your hands in your pockets and arms at your sides will help you hold this stance and keep you from fidgeting. 

Mirroring movements is another way to use your body to display active listening. When you mirror the person you are talking to, you mimic their nonverbal signals. If they smile, you smile. If they lean to one side, you also lean. Mirroring behavior shows that you’re trying to connect with the other person. Other positive body language includes smiling, leaning in and maintaining good posture.

5. Next, maintain positive eye contact with the speaker

When you look someone in the eye while you talk to them, it is easier to connect with them. Eye contact shows sincerity and interest. For example, if your manager is discussing an issue with you and you are listening intently while maintaining eye contact, you can show that you understand the issue and plan to resolve it.

Maintaining eye contact in the workplace demonstrates that you care about others on your team and are sincerely interested in solving problems, reaching goals and doing your job well. People who maintain eye contact during conversations often portray themselves as trustworthy. Active listening builds trust, which helps to build friendships and healthy work relationships. 

6. Last, show care and concern

For those who want to succeed at work, showing care and concern for the needs of the workplace is one of the most effective ways to do so.

You will be more likely to grow in your career if you show that you are dedicated to helping the company succeed. To do this, make sure you truly understand your company’s needs.

For example, active listening during a work meeting, especially during the discussion of a company-wide issue, shows that you care and want to do what you can to help. Those who want to move up in a company should be well-engaged with the company’s owners and managers. If you show your investment by demonstrating care and concern, you can more easily establish yourself as an essential part of the team.