Listen Up: The Skill You Need to Get Ahead at Work

Boosting your active listening skills at work can help you be more present in the conversations you’re having, prevent incidents of conflict, deepen your relationships with colleagues and ultimately improve your job performance.

Here’s how you can be a better listener at work today.

1. Eliminate Distractions

In our device dependent era, ignoring your phone or shutting your laptop while speaking with others can be tough. But it’s extremely difficult to offer someone your full attention while you’re also monitoring incoming emails or texts. Eliminate electronic distractions so that you can fully focus on the person talking to you.

2. Create Time and Space

Similarly, concentrating on what someone is telling you can be challenging if you’re always rushing off to the next thing. Treat every conversation as an important one, and for scheduled meetings and conversations, ensure that you have a bit of time before to prepare – even a 10-minute buffer can help. Also, when possible, preserve some time after meetings to reflect, ask questions or address concerns.

3. Stop Interrupting

Even though we’re often strapped for time at work, try engaging in conversations at a slower pace. Rather than cutting someone off mid-sentence, allow others the chance to complete their thoughts, and then pause — even for just a few seconds — before offering your response. Think of it as an opportunity to give yourself more time to understand and retain what others are saying.

4. Show Understanding

Certain nonverbal cues can help others know that you are indeed present in the conversation and actively listening to what they have to say. Be sure to maintain eye contact and a relaxed posture, and smile and nod to show that you’re following along.

5. Ask More Questions

Take the time to ask the person speaking to clarify something if you didn’t fully understand what they meant. This can help keep conversations on track and prevent confusion, which can often lead to interruptions and tension. Asking thoughtful questions will demonstrate that you’re paying attention and that you care about what the person is saying — plus it will ultimately improve your understanding of the topic at hand.

When it comes to professional development, you may be more focused on boosting your technical skills — but mastering soft skills like active listening will help you retain information, interact with your colleagues and communicate better, which can help you stand out in the workplace.