Listening is a tough skill to learn. It requires us to be more present, attentive, engaged, open and flexible — all for the benefit of building relationships with other people.
Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that builds a mutual understanding. It requires you to focus on the other person with all your senses. When someone else is talking, take the time to really hear them, rather than focus on what you want to say next in response.
Further Reading: How to be a good leader
Listening first to understand another person’s point of view before jumping in, will help you build a relationship with them. If you don’t agree with what they are saying, you can still build on what they have said in your response to show that you respect them and have heard them out. Active listening is a skill that can only be learned and refined through social interaction. Ultimately, it will improve all your relationships.
Listening also shows engagement. It shows that you care and that you are open to new ideas, feedback and building better relationships. As a leader, empathy and listening go hand in hand. You can show this level of engagement by giving the person who is speaking your undivided attention; listen to their words and reflect on them. Sometimes you don’t even need to provide your opinion; just listening can be enough. Showing this level of engagement not only helps you grow as a leader but builds trust as well.
Listening is the most important skill a leader can have. It is the basis of so many other skills that make up a leader. So be sure to make improving your listening skills a priority.