Active listening – OPEN

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Topic 9.3: Active listening

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When we talk about communication, we often focus on how important it is for the sender to get their message across.

Truly efficient communication, however, depends on your ability to listen to others to ensure that you correctly decode their messages and return relevant responses.

After all, the word communication implies an exchange of ideas and knowledge.

A Chinese character consists of ears, eyes, one, heart and king


Active listening is a bit of buzz phrase that is used to extend the idea of listening beyond just the use of our ears.

Indeed, the Chinese character for ‘listen’ brings together the characters for ears, eyes, heart and the number one, for undivided attention.

Here’s how to listen, actively.

Active listening places a degree of the responsibility for eliminating noise on the receiver. 

In other words, you need to stop: stop what you are doing, stop what you are thinking, stop moving, and (obviously) stop talking.

Have you ever been speaking with someone on the phone and heard them typing away on their keyboard in the background? 

Annoying, isn’t it? 

Have you ever been the person doing the typing?

Active listen requires that you shut out distractions and noise and focus on the sender and their message.

In other words, observe: observe their body language – what non-verbal cues are they sending with their message? 

Are they looking nervous or distracted? Do their physical actions (for example, arrogance) align with their spoken words (such as an apology)?

Here’s a little trick – if you look interested, you get interested.

Non-verbal cues can also be gleaned from written messages. 

We now universally accept that sending messages in ALL-CAPS is the textual equivalent of shouting. 

You will see emojis in emails these days to give context to messages, but they can also be awkward unless there is a level of familiarity between the parties. 

Poor formatting of written documents, as well as frequent errors of spelling and grammar, can also be taken as a sign of disrespect.

Active listening does not end there, though; how you respond is very much part of the process. 

Repeating or rephrasing key points to demonstrate understanding, or asking pertinent questions, are all signals back to the sender that you are interested and engaged.

As a project professional, your ability to manage your projects and people depends a lot on how well you use your words.

Your ability to lead projects to success, however, depends on much more.

As this video shows, we can not only modify our body language to change how others perceive us, we can also use it to regulate our own emotional state.


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