6 Key Skills for Active Listeners 

Active listening is a critical component of effective mentoring and leadership and a fundamental skill for any successful mentor or leader. It not only enables you to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by others, but it also helps to build stronger relationships and foster a more collaborative and supportive work environment.  In this blog post, we’ll be sharing the six key skills that every active listener should possess. So, whether you’re a seasoned mentor or a new leader, these skills will help you become a better listener and a more effective guide to those you lead.

Why are listening skills important for mentors and leaders?

Listening is a skill you can learn, develop and use to help others. Through active listening, mentors and leaders can create a supportive environment that encourages individuals to share their concerns, ideas, and feedback comfortably. By actively listening, mentors and leaders can tailor their guidance and support to the unique needs of each individual. This tailored approach helps individuals to overcome obstacles and reach their full potential, as they receive personalised guidance that is specific to their circumstances. Ultimately, active listening is essential for mentors and leaders as it enables them to support individuals in the most effective way possible, helping them to succeed in their roles and achieve their goals.

The six key skills for active listeners are paying attention, reflecting, withholding judgment, clarifying, summarising, and sharing.

If you’ve ever found yourself nodding along and agreeing with a friend, only to realise that you had no idea what they were saying, then you know how important it is to be an active listener.

By actively listening, we stay engaged with the speaker and demonstrate that we’re interested in what they have to say.

In this article, we explain six key skills for active listeners:

  1. Paying attention
  2. Reflecting back what you hear (also known as reflecting)
  3. Withholding judgement until after you’ve understood the other person’s perspective (also known as withholding judgement)
  4. Clarifying if something isn’t clear (also known as clarifying)
  5. Summarising at regular intervals so that your conversation partner knows where he/she is going next (also known as summarising).
  6. Sharing to demonstrate that you are paying attention to what the speaker is saying.

1. Pay attention

It is important to pay attention when listening. You can do this through:

  • Body language: Body language includes eye contact, facial expressions and gestures.
  • Tone of voice: Tone comes in several forms: pitch, volume and speed. The right tone can help convey a message effectively; the wrong one will undermine your communication.
  • Words: Words are how we communicate, but they can be misleading or miss the mark if they’re not chosen correctly or used appropriately. There are many different types of words that exist in a language. It’s important for active listeners to understand which type of word is being used so that they can fully grasp what someone else is trying to say!

2. Reflect

Reflecting is a way of showing that you are listening. It’s a way of encouraging the other person to continue talking. It shows that you are interested in what the other person is saying, that you understand them, and want to learn more about what they have to say.

3. Withhold judgement

If you’re an active listener, you will withhold judgment. You will not judge the person, the situation or the content of the conversation. You won’t judge how they are talking or even yourself or their feelings.

4. Clarify

Clarifying is the process of checking that you understand what the speaker is saying. This can mean:

  • Clarifying a person’s meaning, feelings, intentions, perspective, and values.
  • Clarifying someone’s thoughts on a particular topic.

Example: Sally says: “It was great to see my family at Christmas!” You reply with “I bet it was hard to leave them again so soon.” This statement reveals your understanding of how Sally must feel about having left her family behind once again for another year.

5. Summarise

Summarising is a way of helping the speaker feel understood and heard. It also helps you to clarify your own understanding, remember what was said and identify important points. If you summarise at the end of every section of the conversation, you can be sure that nothing has been lost in translation between you and your listener – which will make them feel confident about speaking with you again in future conversations.

The other benefit to this approach is that it’s easy for both participants; one doesn’t need super-human listening skills or intimate knowledge of the speaker’s life story! But there are some simple rules that can help ensure summaries are effective:

  • Don’t talk too quickly: Summarising should be done slowly enough so that it’s clear. If people aren’t able to follow along easily as they listen back later, then they’re not doing a very good job at summarising!
  • Don’t talk too much: Summaries shouldn’t simply repeat everything said before (although sometimes this might happen). They should highlight only the most important points made by both parties during an exchange.

6. Sharing

Sharing is an active listening skill that you can use to demonstrate that you are paying attention to what the speaker is saying.

As a listener, we all know the importance of paying attention to what others are saying and being able to follow along. But it’s also important to show the speaker that you’re engaged in the conversation by sharing relevant experiences from your own life. This shows that you understand what they’re saying and can relate to their experiences.

If you want to be a great listener, you need to practice. It’s a skill that improves with time and experience, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers! Our experiential programmes and solutions allow you to practise your listening skills to hone them and become even more effective.