Four simple steps to develop better active listening

Written by Beth Gault Tuesday 21 February 2023
Take a deep dive into this vital management skill and discover some simple techniques to improve your listening skills through four key principles
People wearing headphones jumping in the air

The world has become a very visual place. When we talk about communication, it can often be about how words are written or how things are visually presented. When oral communication is considered, it’s often focused on speaking rather than listening.

But listening well is just as crucial to business success. 

Leaders need to listen in order to lead their teams effectively; HR managers need to be able to listen well when they’re recruiting, thinking about benefits in the workplace, or in exit interviews when they’re receiving feedback; sales executives need to be able to listen to what their client’s problem is so that they can potentially solve it. 

Different types of listening

More than one type of listening: Otto Scharmer’s Four Levels of Listening can be used as a key model for managing your team, and making sure their needs are heard. Head to the member-exclusive Career Development Centre to find out more

There are different types of listening. Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management, refers to factual, empathic and generative listening’; Julie Starr, author of The Coaching Manual, splits listening into four different levels: cosmetic, conversational, deep and active. Each is dependent on the depth of attention, judgment and empathy afforded to your conversation partner.

So what exactly is active listening?

Active listening is showing genuine interest in a conversation, meaning that the person speaking feels valued and considered. It goes beyond just hearing, and instead, as the name suggests, is more “active”, with the listener able to reflect back the points raised by the speaker and ask questions, empathise or challenge.

Active listening is like a trampoline

Keep reading to learn how to improve your ability to listen actively


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