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What is Active Listening?

I recently read an insightful article by Amy Gallo on "What is Active Listening," published on HBR.org, and it resonated deeply with my coaching philosophy and certainly how my own journey of active listening is about practice.


As a leadership coach, I believe that fostering active listening within organizations can address numerous communication challenges and pave the way for more effective, empathetic, and productive interactions.


Active listening is not just about hearing words; it's about engaging with and understanding the speaker's message, emotions, and intentions. This skill transforms conversations into meaningful exchanges, fostering a collaborative environment.


Here are a few steps to enhance active listening skills:


Recognize Your Listening Style: Everyone has a default listening style, be it task-oriented, analytical, relational, or critical. Understanding your natural inclination helps you adjust your approach according to the situation's demands.


Be Present in the Conversation: Active listening requires full attention. Put away distractions, and resist the urge to plan your response while the other person is speaking. Focus on understanding their perspective fully before forming your own response.


Practice Empathy: Try to understand the emotions behind the words. This involves reading between the lines and being sensitive to the speaker's non-verbal cues.


Ask Clarifying Questions: Show your engagement and understanding by asking questions that probe deeper into the topic. This also ensures that you have correctly understood the speaker's message.


Reflect and Validate: Summarize and reflect on what you've heard to validate the speaker's message. This shows that you value their input and helps avoid misunderstandings.


Provide Constructive Feedback: When it's your turn to speak, offer feedback or responses that are thoughtful and constructive, contributing positively to the conversation.


By mastering active listening, leaders and team members can build stronger relationships, enhance team dynamics, and create a culture of mutual respect and understanding. It's an investment in personal and professional growth that pays dividends in all aspects of life.


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