What is Active Listening? Key Communication Skills to Improve Active Listening

Are networking connections not turning into lasting relationships? Create a more robust network with one essential skill: active listening.

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Many people often put their focus on improving presentation skills, but a skill that could often use some more attention is active listening. The benefits of active listening show that it’s an essential skill to create and maintain strong relationships.

Whether you are looking to work on personal or professional relationships, this is a skill that you shouldn’t ignore. Keep reading to learn what active listening is, why it’s important, why you need it to network, and how to master it.

What is active listening?

Active listening takes a little more effort than regular listening. To listen, you have to make a conscious effort to hear what the other person is saying and understand and retain that information. Active listening is not planning your response but putting the spotlight on the other person. This type of listening shows interest and attentiveness and conveys your care about what the speaker says. 

Why is active listening important?

Active listening is a skill that can help deepen connections while networking and lead to long-term networking relationships. How does active listening achieve this?

Learn more.

By actively listening, you can learn from every conversation. Take in all of the information you can get from any interaction when you actively listen. Network with people in your industry, and learn from what they have to say. 

Broaden your perspective. 

You can see more viewpoints on specific topics by listening and learning from others. Network with people outside of your industry to gain a broader perspective.

Deepen trust. 

Trust can be built more easily when people can tell that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. A critical part of mutually beneficial networking relationships is trust. Active listening can help your connections feel comfortable talking to you.

How active listening is the best networking strategy.

Learning how to network can be challenging. It can feel like a forced relationship with someone for personal gain. We often go into a conversation with an idea of who that person is, already coming up with ideas of how they might be able to help you. Making and maintaining connections becomes easier when you actively listen. Go in to listen and learn from the other person. Once you know more about them, you can create a more meaningful relationship.  

12 steps to improve active listening 

Follow these 12 steps to improve your active listening skills.

1. Keep an open mind.

Going into a conversation with an open mind allows you to listen to the other person's point of view without immediately interrupting and refuting what they say. 

2. Be attentive.

An essential part of active listening is not getting distracted. Make sure you continue to pay attention and hear everything they have to say. Our attention spans are often not long enough to listen to someone talk for a few minutes. Take a quick break to sip some water and allow yourself to refocus. 

3. Maintain eye contact.

Maintaining eye contact shows that you are paying attention to the speaker. Conversely, letting your eyes wander might make you appear disinterested.

4. Stay relaxed.

When you are anxious, that can affect those around you. Stay calm and relaxed to create a better environment for the conversation.

5. Be patient.

Active listening requires focusing on the speaker for an extended period. We are very used to talking about ourselves, so learn to be more patient and focus on someone else. 

6. Don’t interrupt. 

While showing interest and providing feedback is vital for active listening, make sure you aren’t interrupting the other person’s thoughts to respond to their thoughts.

7. Offer Positive reinforcement. 

Let them know you're listening by offering a quick “uh-huh,” “I agree,” or “yes.” Using brief interjections shows you are engaged. 

8. Take notes. 

It can be easy to forget important details about your conversation as you listen. Add quick conversation notes in their HiHello contact so you can remember what they said. 

HiHello notes feature.

9. Ask questions.

Actively engage by asking relevant questions. Take a moment to think of an open-ended question that applies to the conversation topic. 

10. Pay attention to body language.

Active listening means paying attention to words. Look at the speaker’s body language. Do they look happier talking about topics or disinterested when mentioning others? Focus on topics that reflect positive body language. 

11. Share.

The final aspect of active listening is to share. Once you have heard everything the other person has to say and ensured you understand them, you can offer your perspective. 

12. Follow-up.

Spending all of that time fostering a relationship doesn’t mean much if you never reach out again. Use HiHello’s smart address book to remember to send a follow-up message. And don’t forget to include a reference to the conversation you had.

Follow up with HiHello smart address book.

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know!

Main photo by Parabol on Unsplash.

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