Practicing active listening within the workplace, whether you are in a meeting or in a training session, improves communication skills. Also, combining active listening strategies with other techniques during learning and development opportunities can help to increase skill transfer.
Why is active listening important?
Described in its simplest form, active listening is a way of giving your full attention to someone else. It allows us to hear, understand and retain information that we are given which is especially relevant if you are looking to improve the success of training sessions.
Rather than defaulting to a setting where we multitask (we’ve all snuck a look at our emails during virtual meetings!) which can impede concentration, active listening strives to increase learning capacity. This is achieved through true awareness of the information that is being communicated and develops thinking and processing skills.
5 tips to promote active listening
We’ve put together our top five active listening strategies that can help to improve training sessions.
1. Listen to hear, not to respond
Everyone is familiar with the conversations where a point is made only to be rephrased as question two minutes later. While this can occur because someone’s attention has drifted away, if you implement active listening it is important to focus on hearing what is said rather than trying to be part of the conversation just ‘because you can’.
It can be challenging from the point of view of the trainer and other listeners to find themselves needing to backtrack halfway through an explanation. Try and think about ‘listening to hear’ as if you are learning lines for a speech; don’t concentrate on what is in the next sentence, focus on remembering what you are reading (hearing) in the now.
2. No interruptions!
Our second point links well with listening to hear because if you spend time anticipating your chance to respond, you are more likely to interrupt the person who is speaking. This can negatively impact the flow of speech and may throw a presenter off track.
You never know, the next part of the sentence may have been making the same point or answering the question you have just vocalised!
One way to curb this temptation is to make note of any ideas that you have that you feel add value to the session. By making note of comments, you can remember and revisit them at a time where trainers open the conversation up to questions or comments from learners.
3. Ask questions
By now we all know the value of questions during training sessions. Whether you are asking a question to bring clarity to your understanding or responding to a question posed by a trainer there is always space in the workplace to ask or answer.
When considering questions in the remit of an active listening strategy they can help to bring a greater depth to your understanding. Where you have been hearing and processing content that has been shared, questions posed can encourage detailed comprehension beyond surface definitions or models. Thus, upskilling your knowledge.
4. Paraphrase key points
Whether this is a verbal response during sessions phrased to check understanding or written as notes during a training session, paraphrasing information can help the retention of information.
Choose the method that works best for you that suits your learning style when it comes to paraphrasing. You could even make voice notes at the end of a virtual training session to listen to at a later date.
5. Make the most of the silence
Sometimes it can be tempting to fill silence during virtual learning sessions with a question or an idea but, if there is a pause in speech it is important to acknowledge that you can stay quiet. When you are actively listening during a course the quiet can offer you with a respite to check in with yourself.
You can run through content or maybe consider a question that hasn’t been answered yet. Take the opportunity to consolidate what you know and assess why you know it. Ultimately silence is great for critical thinking, a skill that can be practised as part of an active listening strategy.
If you want to learn how you can upskill your active listening, we have an Advanced listening skills workshop that would be perfect for you!