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Last updated on 12/9/20

Bring active listening and positive communication into play

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Use active listening

The more people there are, the more there is a risk of disagreement. Sometimes the disagreement comes from a lack of understanding because hear without actually listening. You need to acquire the important social skill called “active listening”. This skill is fundamental in meetings as well as all informal exchanges in the life of a team.

This is a counter-intuitive skill that has to be acquired. Interruptions, obstructions, overlapping words and dialogues between people who aren’t listening to each other impede healthy, effective communication between team members.

1) Know how to hear

Here are some good practices:

  • I am driven by a sincere willingness to understand, and a genuine curiosity about the way the person I’m interacting with is thinking.

  • I put off the opportunity to express myself, which will come.

  • During the listening time, I am 100% focused on what the person I’m interacting with is saying because I will be 100% concentrated on what I am going to say when it is my turn to speak.

  • My facial expression is neutral, my posture is open and turned towards the person with whom I’m interacting.

  • I alternate naturally between (non-aggressive) eye contact and briefly breaking eye contact (when I’m concentrating on what is being said).

  • I have an opinion about the situation while leaving myself the possibility of changing it.

  • It’s not because I listen and let the other person speak without interrupting that I agree with everything; I let the person I’m interacting with take responsibility for what they are saying.

  • I listen without rejecting, nor adding, nor modifying. I do not project myself into what is said.

  • I pay attention to the congruence between the verbal and non-verbal, which tells me about the person I’m interacting with’s level of emotional response.

2) Know how to re-phrase

Re-phrasing plays a fundamental role on several levels. First of all, it lets you confirm that you have correctly understood what has been said. Then, it puts you in a good light by proving that you know how to listen and control yourself. It’s also positive for the person you’re speaking to, acknowledging their right to express themselves, which contributes to building the dialogue.

3) Know how to ask questions

Asking questions allows you to understand the situation based on the actual facts, confirming or refuting your assumptions.

Effective questioning combines three dimensions:

  • Ask questions about the perception of events with open questions in the exploratory phase (what/when/how/how much/how many?), or closed questions for the details (“Is it… ?” with a “yes” or “no” answer). Don’t hesitate to probe (“What do you think about that?”, “In what way... ? In respect to what? What do you mean by that?”).

  • Use "why" and "how" to ask questions about motivations with regards to aims and needs: “Do you prefer this one or that one?”

  • Ask questions about feelings and emotions: “How do you feel about this point?”, “What is it that’s annoying you?”, “What are you doubtful about?” If the person you’re speaking to is not very talkative: “Don’t you think that…?”

To be fully effective, active listening must be accompanied by positive communication.

Communicate clearly and positively

Communication is successful when the person expressing themselves is heard and understood by the person listening, who will thus be able to make proper use of what they have learnt.

You can see that it’s a real challenge to be understood and have an effective dialogue!!

Give yourself the best chance and be as clear and positive as possible. In addition to managing your emotions and the techniques of active listening, the process can be made even more secure.

Be clear and concise

When we express ourselves, certain habits make our words equivocal, increasing the risk of misunderstandings, when we:

  • leave out part of the sentence: “You haven’t listened”: listened to what?

  • leave out the subject who is carrying out the action of the sentence: making too much use of “one”, “people”, ‘they” dilutes responsibility, can seem like an allusion, and is open to all sorts of interpretations.

  • misuse generalizations: “Engineers are…”, “You always say…”, “Sales staff never…”, “Generation Ys don’t like…”

  • state something that is a supposition: “He has lied”, “I get the feeling they have forgotten to talk about it”.

Use positive phrases and vocabulary

Sometimes we get into the habit of using negative terms and turns of phrase that interfere with the how our words are received. Reverse this habit and make it positive!

In the same way, you can work on your turns of phrase:

Negative expressions

Positive expressions

You

We

You haven’t

It hasn’t been possible to

I want...

What do you think about…?

What you’re asking is impossible

There are some interesting points, but we need to think about

Your decision is unfair

Your decision can be improved in terms of its fairness

It’s forbidden / impossible

Let’s look at the possible options

Don’t wait: train yourself in active listening and positive communication with your friends and family, you’ll find the benefits will be reflected in your work life.

Summary

  • Effective teamwork requires active listening and positive communication.

  • Active listening involves:

    • Knowing how to hear with an open-minded willingness to understand;

    • Knowing how to re-phrase in order to acknowledge and clarify what is being said;

    • Knowing how to ask questions to gain a well-rounded understand.

  • Positive communication involves:

    • Being clear and concise;

    • Using positive phrases and vocabulary.

These techniques will be very useful to you if you have to accept criticism and give constructive feedback, which we'll discuss next. 😊

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement