During a meeting people are constantly communicating via both words and visuals cues. However, sending messages is not the only part of the communication process. Receiving (listening) is just as important. Think about it: when you say something to someone, but that person is not paying attention or doesn’t try to understand you, your message has been sent for nothing. So, let’s take a look at an important listening skill, called active listening. Active listening plays an important role in the communication process in meetings (and outside of meetings, of course), so how do you do it?

Active listening

Listening is not the same as hearing and requires both focus and a concentrated effort. You need focus in order to understand the messages that are being sent to you. Active listening means fully concentrating on what is being said and trying to understand it, rather than just passively hearing the message of the speaker.

Use verbal and non-verbal signs

Show interest in the speakers’ message by using both verbal and nonverbal signs, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, or saying ‘yes’ or ‘mmm-hmm’ to encourage them to continue speaking. This will make the speaker feel more at ease. If you don’t give these signs, or if you are obviously distracted by something, it could give the speaker the idea that you’re not listening and then he would not feel encouraged to continue speaking.

Don’t judge

Remain neutral and non-judgmental, especially early in the conversation. Active listening is about patience: pauses and short periods of silence from the speaker should be accepted. Don’t jump in with questions or comments, give the speaker some time to explore their thoughts and feelings and try to understand them without judgment!

Show understanding

When you feel like the person is finished speaking, ask relevant questions, ask for clarification if needed, summarize the person’s message in your own words, and give the speaker the chance to correct. This way, you ensure the speaker that you’ve listened to him and that you understand what he said. After this you can share your own thoughts.

Conclusion

Sending and receiving messages and trying to understand them, that’s what communication is about. The steps above will help you be a great listener. And remember, active listening is a skill that requires practice, so start practicing today!

Interested in learning more communication skills? What about giving and receiving constructive feedback?

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Download our free ebook about meetings

Do you want to learn more about meetings and how you can improve them to save time? This blogpost is part of our ebook ‘A brief introduction to meetings’. Other chapters include meeting agenda, meeting types, meeting rhythms, what are meeting minutes, giving and receiving feedback, group decision making methods, and much more.

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