How to listen and learn from customers and patients

Interacting with other people is a necessary part of life, no matter how much we’d like to avoid it sometimes. Too often, we all have conversations where we concentrate on the information we want to convey rather than what the other person is talking about.

Active listening is not just about hearing a person speak, but also about paying attention to their meaning, which can be found their body language and other nonverbal cues. An active listener is empathetic to a person’s emotions, past experiences, and current circumstances.

The skills required during your job search are often applicable on-the-job too. This is certainly the case with Active Listening, which is a necessary characteristic of a good networker. Whether you have a career in healthcare, retail, IT, or administration (or pretty much any workplace for that matter), being able to listen effectively will help you negotiate, avoid conflict, and care for others.

Where can Active Listening help?

Once you start consciously paying close attention to the conversations you have, you will be surprised at the variety of situations in which you can use active listening. When talking to your family and friends you may also find yourself getting more out of the interactions than previously. Here are just a few ways active listening can help your working life.

Searching for a job

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you never know who will help you along your career path. Obviously, this means being nice to people you meet, but it also means actually listening to what they have to say because you never know when an interesting opportunity could be mentioned. People love to talk about themselves and encouraging this is the best way to approach a new contact and expand your network.

Working in healthcare

When working in frontline healthcare, ‘care’ is not just a word in the title. Caring is an essential aspect of these roles, in terms of both a patient’s physical and mental well-being. Simply feeling listened to can help a patient negotiate a difficult situation and can also result in better health outcomes.

Working in IT support

When working in information technology positions, especially in support roles, dealing with clients and other departments can be extremely frustrating. Often, the person you are speaking with will not have the same knowledge of a topic as you do. Not only will you have to use active listening skills to really understand what a client needs, but you should also have the skills to explain complex processes in a simple and clear manner while remaining patient and calm.

Working in retail

We all know the saying: “The customer is always right”. While this may not stand up in practice (we’ve all met particularly difficult people in our time), implementing active listening when dealing with complaints can ensure you find a resolution that suits both parties. Most customers just want to be acknowledged. S so whether it is giving them a friendly smile and nod when they are waiting for service and you are helping someone else, or by being completely present and respectful when dealing with an issue, the acknowledgment and understanding active listening creates can help ease a potentially tense situation.

10 Top Tips for Active Listening

Here are ten tips on how to listen well and develop not only your career networks, but also improve your working relationships, be they clients, management, or coworkers.

  1. Break the ice: Small gestures like a warm smile and a friendly handshake can make someone feel more comfortable talking to you.
  2. Be present: This is a skill that takes a lot of practice, and no one else can teach you. It took me years to master. The idea is to be completely focused on the person in front of you and what they are saying. It also means asking relevant questions (see below) and making them feel at ease.
  3. Use open body language: Crossed arms and legs, hunched shoulders, glances over your shoulder. These signs all tell the person you are talking to that you don’t want to be there. Keep your body language and posture open, make sure you avoid fidgeting as much as possible.
  4. Hear it all: Let them finish what they are saying! Nerves can get the better of all of us but to listen actively you need to hear all of what a person has to say. And don’t be afraid of silence. Give a few seconds pause after the person stops speaking to ensure they have said everything they need to.
  5. Paraphrase: Repeat back to the person what they have said, using your own words, in such a way that they feel comfortable enough to correct you if you have misunderstood their meaning.
  6. Reflective Listening: While paraphrasing focuses on what the person is saying, reflective listening is about what a person is feeling. This involves acknowledging how the person is feeling but, just like paraphrasing, it also means leaving room for them to correct you if you get it wrong.
  7. Ask relevant questions: Show genuine curiosity in the person in front of you. Use their response to frame your responses. Ask questions that build on what they just said.
  8. Get rid of the phone: We just can’t help it, we are all drawn to check our phones. But every time you glance at your phone you are telling the other person that you have other things to do. Act like you genuinely want to be there, give the person your full attention, and put the phone in your bag.
  9. Talk about yourself, when appropriate: Insert your own relevant points of experience or information about yourself to put them at ease.
  10. Be honest. Always: In any situation, honesty is the best policy. If you don’t know something, you will gain more respect in the long run if you admit to it. This is a good chance to ask about it! People usually love talking about something they are knowledgeable about so this is a great way to keep the conversation flowing – and show that you are keen to learn.

Active listening is taught alongside interpersonal, customer-service and communication skills within CCI Training Center’s Business Accounting program. For information on how to further your listening skills or learning more about a career in IT or healthcare fill out the form and we’ll get in touch.