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7 Principles to Master Active Listening

7 Principles to Master Active Listening

Effective communication is at the heart of successful project management as it builds strong client, stakeholder, and team relationships. One of the key elements of communication is active listening. Being a great leader necessitates having excellent listening skills, which allow you to truly understand and acknowledge the needs of those around you. This not only fosters trust but also ensures everyone feels valued and heard.


Although many people believe they are good listeners, it is not commonly known that active listening entails more than just hearing. Active Listening includes full comprehension of the speaker, open-mindedness, empathy, and undivided attention. This makes both the listener and the speaker fully engaged in the discourse.


If you want to elevate your skills and become a better listener, these are the 7 principles that you should apply to boost your active listening skills:

Give Them Time

Although it is not always easy to make time for listening in the hectic world of project management, it is essential. Learn not to rush conversations, whether in one-on-one meetings, team discussions, or stakeholder communication. When your interlocutors believe they have your complete attention, they are more inclined to voice key insights and concerns, resulting in improved project outcomes.

It’s human nature to want to speak up and share your thoughts, but in order to enhance communication, you must strive to listen attentively to what the other person is saying, and not interrupt them. Wait until the speaker has fully finished their point. In the meantime, you can take notes about the key ideas being discussed and address them later.

Be Careful To Your Body Language

Body language is equally, if not more, significant than verbal communication. As a project manager, your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice may either encourage or hinder open dialogue. These non-verbal cues often communicate feelings and attitudes that are difficult to explain verbally or that you try not to communicate at all.

It is thus important to keep a positive body language to enhance your active listening skills. A few examples include maintaining good eye contact, nodding your head, and keeping your arms open. These gestures demonstrate your interest in the ongoing conversation and foster trust. On the other hand, avoid distracting behaviors such as fidgeting, looking away, or checking your phone.

Ask Questions

Active listening also involves asking clarifying questions and seeking feedback. Try to always engage with the speaker by asking open-ended questions such as “Can you explain more about this?” or “What do you think about this situation?”. This not only encourages elaboration and improves your comprehension of their communication, but it also demonstrates to the other person your real interest in what they’re saying.

Paraphrase

One excellent way to show that you are actively listening and to clarify your understanding is to paraphrase. By rephrasing what the speaker has said in your own words, you show your engagement and assure the speaker that you have comprehended their message correctly. This technique also allows them to clear up any ambiguities. You can use phrases such as “You mean that…” or “So, you’re saying that…” to paraphrase during conversations.

Get Rid Of Distractions

It is sometimes difficult to be fully present when someone is speaking to us. Whether it’s text messages, noise, or just random thoughts, distractions interfere with our ability to listen actively and prevent us from actually hearing what the speaker is saying.

To be an effective active listener, it is essential to minimize or get rid of these distractions and focus solely on the actual conversation. This could mean putting your phone on silent, finding a quiet spot to talk, or simply trying to clear your head of other thoughts and worries.  Your level of attention shows your respect for the speaker and improves the quality of the conversation.

Avoid Judgment

A nonjudgmental mindset is necessary for active listening. When someone else is speaking, refrain from making judgments or developing opinions since this will simply take your focus away from the conversation and make it difficult for you to understand the main ideas they are attempting to convey. Rather, pay attention to what they have to say while keeping an open mind. This encourages open discussion and inspires people to express themselves freely without the fear of being judged.

Summarize

At the end of the discussion, summarize the main ideas discussed to make sure you understood everything correctly. This can be done by briefly providing a quick recap of the key points and any agreed-upon actions. A clear summary indicates that you have been actively listening to the conversation and can remember key information. It can also prevent miscommunications and offer a chance for any last-minute clarifications.

Developing your active listening skills should be a continuous process as it often takes time and effort to master. These 7 basic principles of active listening are valuable tools for becoming a better listener and a more effective project manager.