The #1 problem with communication between 2 or more people in or outside of the workplace tends to be a lack of ‘active’ listening. We see this played out in meetings when people:
Our ability to actively listen and demonstrate that we really hear what is being said, encourages the speaker to continue speaking and to want to engage with us. Ultimately we all want to ‘feel heard’. When we’re heard we feel validated that what we’re saying is interesting or important to the other individual(s). We also sense indirectly and perhaps unconsciously that “I trust this person who listens”. A study conducted in 2014 identified that people receiving ‘active’ listening responses felt more understood than participants who received either advice or simple acknowledgements. The research suggests that the predictability of our ability to actively listen increases our ability to develop key relationships that ultimately reward us in the future:
Every relationship begins with a first encounter. In first encounters people also work to create a favorable first impression and form accurate impressions of others. These first impressions are particularly important because they shape future interactions and can determine whether interactions will occur in the future. The rewards realized from early enjoyable conversations lay the foundation for predictions of rewards and costs in the future. The study goes on to say … effective listeners generally project more positive impressions than ineffective listeners.
True face-to-face active listening depends on a combination of behaviours that include but are not limited to:
Active listening doesn’t mean we remain neutral and/or have no opinion or judgement on a topic. It means that before we state our opinion we acknowledge and strive to understand what a person has said before we seek to be understood. In fact, in any communication, our ability to really understand others first before we give our input creates the possibility of a more concise and targeted conversation.
The use of actively listening is even more critical during consensus building or in conflict situations where 2 or more parties are in disagreement. In a consensus building situation active listening ensures that all options are heard and understood before moving to make the decision. In conflict resolution, actively listening to what the other party’s concerns are can effectively lessen the escalation of conflict since the other party, regardless of their issue with you, is feeling heard.
Additional tips for active listening:
Our ability to actively listen is critical to effective communication. Taking the time to actively listen from the outset may mean less time down the road for correcting misinterpretations or having to go back for additional details that were not discussed in the first place. It helps to build consensus and reduce the potential for escalated conflict. It means building relationships that could serve greater benefits for all involved down the road!
 Harry Weger Jr., Gina Castle Bell, Elizabeth M. Minei & Melissa C. Robinson (2014) The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions, International Journal of Listening, 28:1, 13-31, DOI: 10.1080/10904018.2013.813234
Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!