4 Ways to Use Active Listening to Become a Better Leader

Whether you’re trying to remake the culture at your office, recruit great people or triage after some nasty “office drama,” you might benefit from honing your communication skills.

You need to be able to convey messages to other people effectively, and you need people to hear what you are saying and respond well. One key to making this communication “dance” work is learning how to listen effectively. When you listen well, you can pick up subtle signals from vendors, employees, and other stakeholders you might otherwise have ignored. Demonstrating empathy can also inspire loyalty and a desire to contribute. Here are some powerful tips to that end.

1. Pay attention to body language.

Communication is a lot like an iceberg. The “visible part” (which is smaller) consists of the actual words exchanged. The “invisible part” (the part of the iceberg below the water) involves non-verbal communication — the subtle verbal gesticulations that you make in between words, how you nod, how close you are from the other speaker, how you time certain responses, how your face looks as you are speaking, etc.

You don’t necessarily need to do anything magical. Don’t obsess about your body language or the other person’s – just pay attention to it. By pointing your attention in that direction, you will naturally empathize.

2. Get feedback.

How well is your message being received? How well are you receiving other people’s messages? You can guess, or you can ask. Why not ask? Why not get actual feedback, so that over time you can get better?

This is a simple idea. Any business process improvement specialist, for instance, will tell you that you need iterative feedback to improve. But you might be shocked by how infrequently most people ask for feedback, when it comes to communication. Don’t be one of those people!

3. Get in touch with yourself more.

By understanding your own needs, moods and emotions better, you will naturally become a better communicator. You’ll be better able to specifically and concretely ask for what you want. You will also be able to concentrate better on what other people need.

4. Consider engaging in regular meditation.

Research science suggests that people who meditate regularly improve their executive functioning, equanimity and ability to empathize.

By cultivating better active listening, you should improve your leadership acumen, which can in turn improve bottom line performance and ROI.

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