Active Listening and
Communication Skills for
Are you a good listener?
Listening is a highly valued soft skill sought by all employers in prospective employees. After all, people with this ability are more likely to understand tasks and projects, build strong relationships with co-workers, and also to be able to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
Since it’s such an in-demand skill, employers will look for you to demonstrate your ability to listen during job interviews.
Discover why good listening skills are vital in the workplace, along with how to build good listening habits while avoiding the bad ones.
The listening process
Listening within the work context is the process by which you gain an understanding of the needs, demands and preferences of your stakeholders through direct interaction. A stakeholder could be anyone: your boss, a client, a customer, a co-worker, a subordinate, upper management, a board member, an interviewer or a job candidate.
There are two components to active listening in the workplace:
a. Paying attention
Attention involves holding eye contact, nodding, having good posture and mirroring the speaker’s body language to show genuine interest in what (s)he is saying.
In addition to these non-verbal cues, you must also allow the speaker to finish his/her thought in its entirety.
These are all cues which suggest that you’re focused on what the speaker is saying.
b. Reflection and responding
Reflection is the repeating and paraphrasing of what the speaker has said so as to show that you truly understand what (s)he is telling you.
What makes a good listener?
Good listeners always strive to fully understand what others want to communicate, particularly when the statement lacks clarity. Listening demands an attempt to decode and interpret verbal messages and non-verbal cues, like tone of voice, facial expressions and physical posture.
Active listeners also show their curiosity by asking questions. Do this, and you will make a great impression!
Through body language and other cues, good listeners subtly communicate to the speaker that they’re listening. Additionally, they encourage and welcome the thoughts, opinions and feelings of others.
One way to demonstrate active listening is to allow the interviewer to complete each question and statement before you respond to that. Do not interrupt and be sure that your response genuinely answers the question.
It’s perfectly fine to take a few moments to frame the right response. Doing so shows that you’ve fully absorbed the speaker’s words and are considerate enough to formulate the best answer.
What makes a bad listener?
Interrupting indicates that your listening skills are underdeveloped. Likewise, responding in a way that fails to answer the question will reflect poorly on your listening skills, especially during a job interview.
If you’re uncertain about a question, it’s better to get it clarified than to take a gamble about what the interviewer is asking.
Talking too much is also problematic, as proper conversations should be well-balanced, with each party involved getting equal time to speak. Monopolizing a conversation prevents you from listening and the other party from fully expressing what they want to say. In the end, this will lead you to making a poor impression.
Looking distracted is also a trait of a poor listener. This could involve anything from avoiding eye contact to checking your phone or watch while someone else is talking.
Examples of effective listening
A job candidate shares his/her understanding of an unclear question during an interview and asks if (s)he got it right.
An interviewer notices that a candidate doesn’t look him/her in the eye when asserting a key strength.
A customer service worker repeats a patron’s problem or complaint back to him/her to reassure him/her that (s)he has been heard.
A counsellor nods and says, “I hear you,” to encourage a client to continue to talk about his/her traumatic experience.
A meeting facilitator encourages a reticent group member to share his/her views on a proposal.
An interviewer asks a follow-up question to gain further clarification on the ways in which a candidate has applied a critical skill in a past job.
A nurse informs a patient that she is aware of how scared (s)he is about his/her upcoming surgery and says she is there for him/her.
Being able to communicate effectively is perhaps the most important of all life skills. It is what enables us to pass information to other people, and to understand what is said to us. You only have to watch a baby listening intently to its mother and trying to repeat the sounds that she makes to understand how fundamental the urge to communicate is.
Communication, at its simplest, is the act of transferring information from one place to another. It may be vocally by using voice, written by using printed or digital media such as books, magazines, websites or emails, by visually using logos, maps, charts or graphs or non-verbally using body language, gestures and the tone and pitch of voice. In practice, it is often a combination of several of these.
Communication skills may take a lifetime to master — if indeed anyone can ever claim to have mastered them. There are, however, many things that you can do fairly easily to improve your communication skills and ensure that you are able to transmit and receive information effectively.
How to make your skills stand out
1. Match your skills to the job. Analyse the job listing, paying special attention to the hard and soft skills that are highlighted in the job description. Then, personalize your résumé and cover letter to match the requirements.
2. Familiarize yourself with other in-demand skills. Soft skills like communication may not get a direct nod in a job description, yet they’re still highly desired by hiring managers.
3. Use job interviews to your advantage. Job interviews provide an opportunity to show the hiring manager that you have the verbal communication skills necessary to succeed in a job, rather than just telling them that you do. Prepare for your interview, practice beforehand, and don’t be afraid to pause before answering interviewer’s questions – or to ask for clarification if you need it.
4. Don’t stop when you get the job. Want to make a lasting impression on your colleagues after you’re hired? Use your communication skills at work. Whether it’s participating in a company meeting or talking with a client, you’ll have many opportunities to show how well you communicate.
Hiring managers want more than job-specific skills: To impress potential employers, be prepared to show your communication skills.
Highlight these soft skills during the process: Scan the job description for keywords related to communication skills and use them in your résumé and cover letter.