Active Listening: How to Avoid Misunderstandings and Mistakes in Four Simple Steps

Hearing is Not the Same as Listening – How to Avoid Workplace Mistakes

Did you know that many are listening to their own thoughts rather than to what you are saying to them.

Your message may have been acknowledged, but you probably still felt ignored, unimportant, and not understood.

That’s because -hearing- and -listening- are two very different concepts. This is especially important in the workplace when not really listening can lead to misunderstandings and costly mistakes.

Active Listening produces improved understanding, positive feelings, and better results in the workplace.

Here’s a silly example shows how minds can wander.

Supervisor: “I need you to find the report for the lost profits from last week.”

Employee: “What? You want me to find a lost puppy down the street?”

Supervisor: “Did you hear what I said?”

Employee: “I guess not. My mind was wandering.”

What’s Going On? Humans speak at a rate of 110 to 140 words per minute – but, we think seven times faster so there is a lot of time for our minds to wander.

Not Listening Makes the Speaker Feel Unimportant

Have you ever tried talking to someone while he or she was reading? It is difficult to tell how much that person is getting from what you are saying, and whether they care about what you are trying to tell them.

Your message may have been acknowledged, but you probably still felt ignored, unimportant, and not understood.

It is easy to simply let someone’s words go in one ear and out the other. This can lead to misunderstandings and a feeling of a lack of respect toward the person talking.

That’s because -hearing- and -listening- are two very different concepts.

Hearing is merely your ears perceiving sound, while listening is actually understanding the other person’s point of view.

Why should this matter?

If you are a workplace supervisor or manager and your employees only hear the words being spoken, but don’t fully understand what’s actually being said, it can lead to costly mistakes, and wasted time.

The Four Steps of Active Listening

Active listening requires a level of commitment on the listener’s part. The listener must take four steps:

  1. Stop what they are doing
  2. Make eye contact with the speaker. Eye contact makes the speaker feel connected to the listener.
  3. Focus their sole attention on the speaker and what that person is attempting to express to them. Active listeners try to understand the speaker’s thoughts, feelings and concerns behind the words they hear.
  4. Confirm what they heard by saying something like. “What I understand from what you said is that… Is that correct?”

When they do this an understanding is created that leads to improved accuracy and mutual trust.

Active listening is a leadership skill that supervisors and managers must practice every day so they are setting an example for their employees. They should also teach these

Workplace leaders who teach active listening skills to their employees have better communication, improved relationships, and fewer costly mistakes.

Q. How effective are you as a workplace leader?

Find out by taking our free leadership quiz. It will reveal how you are doing in several essential leadership areas. It will also help you improve employee attitudes, skills, and productivity.

I invite you to get instant access to your free Leadership Quiz at:

How happy are your employees?
Find out with our free Employee Morale Assessment. I also invite you to get this useful tool at:

Copyright: Written by Harriet Meyerson
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