What is Active Listening?
In post-pandemic times, customer-centricity is key!
Consumers today are bombarded with messages all day long. Our 24/7 culture often has us running from one meeting to the next with little time to process what we heard before jumping into the next conversation, online or in-person. How can you fully concentrate, understand, and respond to what you hear? Active Listening.
What is active listening? It’s referenced in the context of social media, social work, community engagement, sales, as well as many other professional roles and scenarios. It is a communication technique including a few easy steps: be attentive, listen non-judgmentally, ask questions, give reassurance and information, be attuned to emotions and non-verbal cues, and summarize what you heard. Active listening strengthens relationships and crystallizes communications between individuals because you’re really present for the information being shared with you.
Let’s look deeper into the four skills that make a great listener:
1. Be attentive – When you listen with all senses, you can understand what’s not being said verbally but with eye contact, body language, and tone of voice. Take the time to truly connect with the person(s) you’re engaging with. Body language like smiling, mirroring gestures, and leaning in or sitting forward can express interest and establish a bond with whom you’re speaking.
2. Listen non-judgmentally – First, listen to what is being shared with you before offering helpful hints or resources. This helps the listener truly hear and process what is being said while the communicator feels they can freely express opinions and information without being judged. This requires patience when the speaker pauses or the conversation has moments of silence.
3. Ask questions, give reassurance and information – Once someone feels their points have been heard and understood, it’s much easier to engage in dialogue about resolving or supporting the issue at hand. As the listener, you can ask questions to clarify what you heard, to gain further insight into the issue, and encourage the communicator to share more of their thoughts and feelings. Reassurance and paraphrasing provide the communicator an opportunity to validate your interpretation of what was said while also encouraging the sharing of additional information.
4. Summarize –This step encourages both parties to think about what was said and heard, encapsulating the non-verbal sentiments shared in the conversation. It is appropriate to share resources and solutions at this point in the dialogue.
This process, while simple, can be a game-changer for brands trying to connect with target audiences. Consider the role of customer service in an organization. The interaction could take place over the phone, through messenger apps, on social media, or face-to-face in-person. Often someone contacts customer service to find an answer to a question or share a grievance, both instances where emotions can be heightened if the process isn’t going well for the customer. Taking the time to engage with active listening allows your company to express compassion and create a meaningful resolution for the customer. This process can provide valuable insight to improve upon current company policies and procedures, benefiting the company in the short and long term.
In social media and all electronic communications, it is important to participate in the online community. When we post content without responding to or connecting with others, it’s only one-sided participation. Imagine going to a cocktail party, walking up to someone you don’t know, saying something and then walking away. This is the equivalent of just posting your company’s content without reaching out and responding to the online community. Companies should follow hashtags, keywords, topics, brands, and individuals to discover opportunities to create content for these audiences. Don’t just track the mentions and conversations, but take part in online events and conversations. Your knowledge, interest, and experience will come out organically and allow you to authentically connect with audiences.
Active listening is also incredibly valuable in the development of brand messaging. Brands gain an understanding of the tone, sentiment, vocabulary, and content that audiences are most interested in connecting with. Many companies get caught in communicating what they think matters and not what matters most to the target audience. Don’t make this mistake when you have great free insight at your fingertips.
Great communication will help you become a better leader, friend, and colleague. Start active listening today and your practice will improve every day, delivering stronger operational and relational results over time.
For over 18 years, C. Change Consulting has helped brands in the corporate, small business, nonprofit, and government sectors with marketing and communications strategy, research, planning, and execution. If you need COVID-19 marketing and communications assistance, please reach out for complimentary services.