Five Simple Tips to Boost Your Own Communication Skills

“Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk.

Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”

-Lee Iacocca, former president and CEO of Chrysler Corporation

You’re sitting in a meeting, and it’s just like all the others.


No one is really listening to anyone else. It seems like people are spending more energy figuring out the next right thing to say than on listening to what is already being said. Or maybe they aren’t even listening; they are too busy with their internal to-do lists or mentally rehashing the argument with a colleague from an hour ago.


There’s a lot of talking and tasks getting assigned, but real communication, innovation, and trust isn’t happening.


Research agrees with your observations at this meeting; a 2014 study shows that the average listener only uses 25% of their listening capacity.


How does this impact the workplace? A lack of active listening threatens communication. Without effective communication, workplaces lose productivity, interpersonal trust, and innovation.


Active listening and communication are at the heart of a strong and thriving team that feels motivated and inspired to perform.
So what can you do to ensure that your team is feeling heard? These tips will help effectively practice active listening and boost the communication and motivation of your team.


Five Simple Tips to Practice Active Listening

1. Minimize Distractions.

Setting the context for active listening is just as important as using the skills themselves. The next time you plan on having an important conversation, secure a quiet location, in a time when you won’t likely be rushed or distracted. Turn off your phone or computer alerts, close your screens, and ensure that you won’t be interrupted by anyone else. Take a deep breath, and prepare to use the following skills.


2. Paraphrase.

Paraphrasing, or summarizing back to the person what they have just said, is an active listening technique used by counselors to help their clients feel heard. It may feel silly at first, but the point isn’t to parrot back word-for-word what you’ve heard. It’s to show that you have taken in the information well enough to say it back in your own words. Remember the statistic about most listeners only using 25% of their listening capacity? This shows your listener that you’re closer to 100%.


3. Check your body language.

We know that a large majority of communication happens not through words, but through body language. What are some cues that will help you listen more actively? Lean slightly in towards your speaker, maintain comfortable eye contact, and uncross your arms and legs. Ready for the next level? Mimicking another’s facial expression can help you feel empathy for what they are going through.


4. Breathe.

Yes, we know you are already breathing! However, consciously being aware of your breath is a powerful way to stay present. The majority of the difficulty of active listening is staying present to what your conversation partner is saying, and maintaining awareness of your breath is a simple way to do this.


5. Avoid giving advice.

It’s human nature to want to fix another person’s problems. In fact, it’s rooted in empathy; you want to relieve the challenges and suffering of the other, so you try to give advice to make their problem go away! But usually, this technique backfires. Without first building trust and understanding (exactly the traits active listening builds), problem-solving can come off as dismissive. Problem-solving is most effective when the solutions are created collaboratively…and after the problem is fully understood.


Active listening is a skill that, with practice, can transform the trust, motivation, and innovation of your team. While you may be tempted to indulge in distractions or give advice during your next conversation, try out one of these simple tips instead. See what happens!


You may even surprise yourself with your capacity to listen.