Active Listening

Active Listening

When you think of the word 'productivity' the first thing people tend to think of is, action; doing things that get you one step closer to completion, whether that is finishing a task, doing your job or a reaching a milestone. Many people don't realise that in order to be productive, before you get started on the actions, you need to be doing something else, effective listening, or more precisely, active listening. As an office work skill, active listening is just as crucial to productivity as action. 

Effective listening and active listening is fast becoming one of the top office work skills sought after by employers as they begin to recognise that productivity, cohesive team working and employee satisfaction are all greatly improved when employees can easily and comfortably utilise active listening techniques in their day to day role. 

What are the different types of listening techniques? 


Passively listening to the words a speaker is using without a conscious effort to absorb, understand, respond to, or remember them. 

Empathetic listening

The use of positive body language, non verbal cues such as nodding, mirrored movements and facial expressions to build trust and a rapport between the listener and the speaker. 

Reflective listening 

Listening to someone explain an idea or concept then thinking it through and repeating the idea or concept back to the speaker to confirm an accurate understanding. 

Attentive listening

Using verbal affirmations to show that you are listening to what is being said. Dropping in verbal affirmations such as "I see," "oh I understand," "ok, I follow you," "I can see how that must be hard," helps to avoid long periods of silence or the speaker feeling self conscious about dominating the conversation.  

Active listening

Uses many of the techniques used in listening, empathetic listening, attentive listening and reflective listening but it goes one extra step in that it requires you to combine them all and listen with all of your senses. As the listener you ultimately concentrate fully on what is being said, how it is being said, the tone and the intended meaning, seeking to hear, understand, respond to and remember what is being said in order to fully and actively absorb the words being spoken.

All of these types of listening have their place and all of them will come in handy at work but because active listening combines all of the listening techniques it is a super charged skill to master. 

How you do anything, is how you do everything.~ Unknown. 

If you can learn the skills of active listening and deploy it in everything you do, even the smaller things in your day to day work then when it comes to those bigger projects you will be a master at actively listening and your productivity will sky rocket. 

Whether you work as a PA, Receptionist, Data Entry Clerk or Customer Service Advisor, being able to listen effectively and take the appropriate action is a key element to doing your job and doing it well so when it comes to a coveted position becoming available, your chances of landing that promotion greatly improve. Find out what office jobs you could progress into.

5 active listening techniques

  1. Building trust and establishing rapport through mirroring and open body language.
  2. Demonstrating concern or interest in the subject.
  3. Paraphrasing and repeating back to show understanding.
  4. Nonverbal cues like nodding, eye contact, and leaning forward to encourage and show understanding.
  5. Brief verbal affirmations such as “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” “Thank you,” or “I understand” all let the speaker know that you have been engaged in what they are saying.

How to use active listening at work.

In any scenario, you are at your most productive when you have a thorough understanding of the scope of the project, how to do it and ultimately complete it in the fastest possible time while maintaining high standards and attention to detail.

  • Taking instruction

When you have been tasked with a project it is essential that you are able to hear, absorb, understand and remember what it is that you are being asked to do or how you are being asked to do something. How quickly or ‘productively’ you can work through the project is governed by how well you have heard what it is that you are being asked to do.

  • Learning

When you are trying to learn a new skill, language, subject or even job, the fastest way to learn is to deploy your active listening techniques to help you absorb the information faster. This is why at school your teachers would have you write notes as they spoke, read aloud in class, discuss and debate a theory with your fellow students and sit exams to consolidate your knowledge. All of the techniques your schooling taught you were variations on active listening techniques and they in turn become the building blocks of productivity.

  • Understanding

A crucial element to absorbing information is understanding it. Being able to dissect it, reformulate its application and explain it on to others if needed, means you truly understand and can apply the information seamlessly. Without a thorough understanding your productivity is stifled as you spend time trying to apply a skill without the required knowledge to do so effectively.

  • Team building

Working with others requires you to practice both your speaking and your active listening skills simultaneously. A cohesive team is one that can communicate clearly, manage expectations and delegate tasks between the team members with confidence. If you can show your colleagues that you are able to absorb information, understand it quickly, empathise with their frustrations and problem solve any issues that arise all through your ability to utilise active listening techniques then they will trust, respect and support you in your role.

  • Appraisals, interviews & promotions

When you are called into a meeting, regardless of its purpose it is often best that you speak when spoken to, answer any questions posed concisely and accurately all the while trying to stay on topic and not getting carried away through nervous babbling. 

By using active listening techniques you will find that you are paying much closer attention to the speaker, you will build trust and a rapport early in the meeting.

You will show that you are engaged and interested in what is being said and because you are making an effort to understand and retain the information being given you will find that it is easy to mirror the language of the speaker when you answer questions further building the positive and emotional connections between everyone in the room. 

Whether you are hoping to progress through the ranks of your current role and get a promotion, or apply for a new job that will help you to progress your career, effective listening could be the very best choice of office work skills that you choose to develop this year. 

Find out about some other top office work skills for 2020 and how to get them for free.