“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” –James Cash Penney

There is so much talking going on in the workplace that opportunities to practice our listening skills are abundant. However, listening goes far beyond just hearing spoken words, and failing to keep both your ears and your eyes open can leave you in the dust. Most people believe they have good listening skills, but more often than not, this is not the case. The good news is effective listening is something that can be learned, practiced, and mastered. Here are some tips from Profession Biz on how to develop this important skill.

1. Ask Questions

A clarification question not only shows the speaker you’re listening, but it also shows you care about what they’re saying. Try asking questions that seek more information, instead of clarification. Some examples are “What happened next?” and “Why did he say that?” When asking questions be sure they add to your understanding, not deflect to a different topic.

2. Practice Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is a term coined by psychologist Carl Rogers. It simply means to use your own words to repeat what the speaker just said. This gives you the chance to make sure you’ve interpreted what the speaker said correctly, and also gives the speaker the chance to clarify if needed.

3. Use Positive Body Language

If you can become aware of your tone of voice, gestures, and expressions, you can really make people want to talk to you. Some examples of positive body language used by great listeners are maintaining eye contact, uncrossing your arms, and leaning towards the listener.

4. Don't Judge

Being open-minded is a requirement if you want to be a good listener. It’s not fun to have a conversation with someone who already has an opinion and isn’t willing to listen to what anyone else has to say. This is especially important in the workplace, where being approachable means access to new ideas, viewpoints, and help. You don’t have to always believe what everyone else believes, you simply have to not pass judgement long enough to truly understand what they are trying to say.

5. Don't Interrupt

When you hijack a conversation it shows the speaker you think what you have to say is more important. This is easy to do when someone is asking for help and we’re excited about our idea to solve their problem, but interrupting someone has the same effect as saying, “Okay that’s enough! You can stop now!”

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to slow down and concentrate on just one thing, but effective listening isn’t something that can be done while multi-tasking. The time you take to slow down and really practice your listening skills will reap many rewards in the long run.