Active listening is among the most sought-after skills in today’s business marketplace. Active listeners forge stronger relationships, inspire more trust and formulate better solutions than their less-engaged counterparts. Unfortunately, active listening is a skill that many claim, but few possess.
The problem is that we spend so much time listening that we assume we must be good at it. This is truer today than it ever has been, as we are “listening” more persistently to more sources via more channels than we ever have before. Despite the overwhelming volume of information that we peruse every day, most of us end up retaining very little of it. Further, our commitment to all those channels means that we often fail to focus on any one of them – even when it’s a person standing in front of us.
So, what is the difference between active listening and passive listening? Active listening includes not just being present for a conversation (or email or text/IM), but also engagement in that interaction.
And while active listening is an important skill for everyone, it’s even more so for those aim for leadership positions. You need to hone your active listening skills, and those of your team. Start by taking this short active listening skills test (you can have your team take it, too!). After the test, we’ve provided some exercises to help fill skill gaps and reinforce good habits. Answers and feedback and provided at the end of the article.
Question 0 of 6
You got 0 out of 6 correct!
Hopefully you did well on the quiz!
Now, here’s the final – and most important – question:
How often do you utilize active listening techniques in everyday communication?
- Every time.
- Most of the time.
- Almost never – in fact, I’m checking my email and texting my boss while on a conference call right now.
Question 1: The answer is C. Unless the stated purpose of the communication interaction is to debate an issue, you should be listening, not formulating arguments.
Question 2: The answer is D – all the above.
Question 3: The correct answer is A. B is also acceptable – provided you pre-call with the speaker that you’ll be doing so, and that you do so respectfully, writing during pauses and confining yourself to short notations. You should not try multitasking while engaged in a conversation, call or online meeting. Nor should you worry about our responses while people are talking. The speakers deserve your respect and attention.
Question 4: The correct answer is C. Silence should not be regarded as a waste of time, nor should you try to fill it. Ebbs and flows in conversation are normal and welcome. As already emphasized, you should not try to multi-task while in a meeting. Being uncomfortable with silence is understandable, but it’s important to learn to accept it as a part of professional communication.
Question 5: The correct answer is D. Interrupting the speaker frequently to ask questions detracts from the interaction. Asking no questions means you do not get the information you need. Asking closed-ended questions may not be as comfortable for the speaker as you think. People like to be able to explain, and if you constantly ask narrow questions, the other speaker may feel you are painting him/her into a corner – plus you miss out on valuable input.
Question 6. The correct answer is C. It’s a good idea to walk through various scenarios with the other speaker as it helps you and him or her better understand and evaluate the issue being discussed.
Just reviewing tips on being a good listener.