They say that we hear much more than we listen. There has never been a more accurate statement shared, as although hearing is a core function of the human body, listening is an action that can become non-existent, especially in business. Listening itself is not sufficient, however. To truly understand your employees, communicate with team members, engage with customers and resolve conflicts, active listening needs to be at the core of your business.
What is Active Listening
Active listening is the act of listening to an individual express themselves while taking the information that is being shared, and processing that information to develop conclusions and craft responses that are both helpful and well suited for the discussion at hand. Individuals who do not actively listen are guilty of providing responses that do not drive the conversation forward, but instead diminish it or put a stop to it altogether. Phrases that show that a listener is not fully invested in what is being said, are;
While these words in and of themselves are perfectly fine to be used in everyday conversation, they are not conversation drivers. Statements that show that a person is actively listening are;
“You are saying…”
“Let me clarify what you have said.”
“I agree with what you said when…”
“Based on what you have told me…”
Phrases that are made to help direct and lead the conversation show that an individual is processing what is being said and is trying to develop a response or a critical takeaway that they can then mull over and share with others. The key to actively listening to a team is listening and then responding. What happens if a situation requires additional time be needed to develop an appropriate response? By ensuring that active listening is taking place from the very beginning, team members will appreciate a response, even if delayed, because it is in acknowledgment of the information being shared.
Verbal and Non-Verbal
Active listening is not only determined by the response that an individual gives, but by the body language that is conveyed as well. We have all heard the saying, “when your eyes glaze over,” as it used to describe someone who is uninterested and uninvested in a conversation. An expression that conveys a lack of interest can be detrimental to a business, for if a person approaches members of their team to express their thoughts and are met with disinterest instead, they will choose to forgo sharing their ideas, issues, or concerns and remain silent. Silence in any business can be detrimental as when team members no longer feel motivated or supported to express their feelings, their motivation for their work and support of others quickly dwindles.
Verbal listening is established through contributing to the conversation by providing helpful statements, acknowledging what is being said, and by facilitating the discussion through statements that reflect active listening.
Non-verbal listening, however, is shown through;
Maintaining eye contact
Taking notes (if needed)
Body language can indicate the extent to which an individual is listening, and help to spur the conversation forward as the speaker feels heard and understood.
Why is Listening Crucial for Your Business?
When researching why employees leave a job, many express issues relating to insufficient pay, lack of communication, poor company culture, and a decrease in passion for the work at hand. One could argue, however, that poor listening skills within the business itself, acts as a catalyst for every one of these reasons given. When team members feel unheard, or worse, feel as if they are unable to express themselves to upper management, the health of the company decreases leaving many wondering whether they should adapt to the changing landscape, or find a position where employee feedback is encouraged and heard.
How We Promote Active Listening at TRAFFIX
At TRAFFIX, we firmly believe that our people are our greatest strength. From the very beginning of TRAFFIX, we established the importance of valuing our employees and ensuring that we listen to everything that our people are telling us. Our team is our ears to the world around us, and we depend on them to direct us in identifying critical issues and in making decisions that help the entire team grow and succeed. We believe that a business cannot operate successfully if it is living in a vacuum.
As with any business, there is a significant distinction between the information that is shared with our management team and their personal opinions on how they envision the company to operate. We frequently learn from our team members by having them identify their past experiences, struggles or successes, and make changes to our practices for the betterment of our business. While there are times when individuals propose ideas that cannot be implemented due to the operation of the company as a whole, we ensure that they feel heard and respected when they choose to share their perspective. By empowering our employees and maintaining an open-door policy, we can learn from them and grow the business together.
Is your company guilty of only hearing what is being said, instead of listening and responding to the information that is shared? Employees are looking to be listened to and respected in the workplace, for a good reason, which comes in actively listening to them whether the topic of discussion is positive or negative. Through implementing a company culture that places listening to others first, companies can identify problems, implement solutions and create a healthy work environment that people are drawn to day after day.