‘Hearing’ something and being fully present in the moment are not the same.
According to Gurdip Anand, Chairman, Universal Business School (UBS), active listening helps a person by engaging in a conversation and reflecting on the learning.
A part of the curriculum at his institution, it is a skill that helps build one of the most ignored features in modern day communication and lead to effective relationships and management.
So what is active listening? According to Anand, it is the ‘art and science’ of ensuring comprehension. He says, “It is the method, during live conversation with someone, where one is constantly engaged in ensuring complete and absolute understanding of the topic.”
He explains that one can do it by expanding the conversation through open ended questions, probing deeper into the subject matter, getting emotionally engaged, constantly validating the understanding by paraphrasing and summarising to ensure nothing is lost in translation and the true essence of the communication is preserved.
Anand furthers that active listening is dependant on 5 skills. According to him, they include, paying attention, holding judgement, reflecting it with target audience, clarifying it and summarising it.
The Chairman of UBS says that this is one method taught in the primary stages in their institution.
“We teach that the first step to active listening is engaging in conversations with the people you are serving and asking for their feedback. If you want to lead then increase your ability to listen.”
The methods involved may include surveys, interviews, focus groups, conversation or through informal discussions at the point of service.
Speaking about it being taught in UBS' curriculum, he adds, "We have it inbuilt in the curriculum, where under Management of Self, students actually practice the art of active listening by engaging in one on one conversations and reflecting on the learning. We are also planning to include Active Listening as a separate subject in the curriculum."
However, the art of active listening has its drawbacks as well. These include lack of cultural differences, lack of know-how, external pressures where active listener faces it difficult to change the judgement of others and much more. The idea and sole focus is to cross all the barriers and lead the situation.
According to Anand, here is how acting listening can make a person a better friend, leader and colleague:
Active listening ensures complete emotional engagement and helps in better relationship building with a colleague or friend as you are demonstrating interest in them and their views.
It helps you to get a complete understanding of the issue at hand as you have gone deeper into the subject matter ensuring better execution.
As a leader it is very helpful as you have the ability to go beneath the surface or symptoms to actually unearthing the real problems leading to better problem solving.
It results in clarity of purpose and direction, making one an effective manager.
It eliminates misunderstanding among colleagues as one stops making erroneous assumptions and seeks clarifications rather than act without the complete knowledge of the issue at hand.
Anand concludes that one must ask, listen and respond to be an active listener. However, if they are seeking feedback, they have to be prepared to actually make changes. By doing so, they develop relationships built on trust and mutual respect, he opines....