Listen up! If we have your undivided attention, you’re already ahead of the curve when it comes to honing your listening skills. That’s good news, considering that 74% of employers surveyed by Cengage said listening skills are important when they’re looking at job candidates. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. And one way to sharpen your skills is to learn how to be an active listener.
What Is Active Listening?
Active listening is the practice of absorbing, comprehending, responding, and retaining what is being said. At work, it’s a secret weapon for building professional relationships, improving your productivity, and advancing your career.
How to Be an Active Listener
1. “Listen” to Non-verbal Cues
Words aren’t everything. Active listening requires you to also read a person’s body language and glean information from non-verbal cues.
Knowing what to look for is crucial. Generally, experts recommend paying attention to these signs:
Direct eye contact
Relaxed facial muscles
Hands are in view, opened, and relaxed
Arms are open
Rapid eye movement
A cold, glaring, or glazed-over look
A raised eyebrow as if in disbelief or doubt
Tight facial muscles
Stiff, forced smile
Hands are closed or in a fist
Arms are tightly crossed (indicating a defensive or protective position)
2. Use Body Language Effectively
Your body language indicates whether you’re tuning in, or tuning out, what someone is saying. Best practices include the following:
Face the speaker
Maintain eye contact. For optimal engaged-but-not-creepy results, make eye contact 60% to 70% of the time.
Nod your head when appropriate
Avoid folding your arms