Active listening or aggressive listening has emerged as a critical skill in effective business communication as well as strategic leadership. Bernard Ferrari author of Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All, stipulates that active listening is the skill that demarcates great and mediocre managers (Ferrari 14).Contrary to prevalent belief, listening is an active endeavor that entails discipline, control, focus, and engagement (Ferrari 20). Active listening is the front end of any business decision and requires the listener to approach a conversation with a pre-established understanding of targeted goals. Moreover, Ferrari encourages the listener to steer and filter the conversation in a manner that accomplishes the preconceived purpose (20). Ferrari assertions ultimately define active listening as a disciplined action that entails probing, analysis, and interpretation of information received with the purpose of improving its quality and quantity. Active listening emerges as indispensable in sustaining creativity and strategic decision making in the course of business leadership.
Given active listening can at times be the difference between business success and failure, one recommendation on improving the activity is showing respect. Ferrari (27-37) highlights the role of having a respectful attitude in enhancing one’s ability to be an active listener. An element of respect is acknowledging that all peers, partners, or subordinates have something individually unique to contribute. This acknowledgement fosters an environment characterized by the continual development of good ideas. The business leader’s role in such an environment entails drawing out and publicizing the vital information. One challenge to respectfulness as a core element of active listening is that many people have a misconception that listening to someone amounts to inferiority. In addition, a business leader seeking active listening skills needs to realize they do not have all the answers consequently they are constantly seeking information and input from their surroundings. Having a respectful approach does not negate the asking of tough questions where active listeners routinely probe to crystallize information required for better decision making.
The other important aspect of active listening is learning to keep quiet. Ferrari (39-50) discusses several elements that can help an individual learn to listen more than talk during a conversation. Keeping quite enables deep concentration and a variation of 80/20 rule suggested by Ferrari can assist in balancing listening and speaking during a conversation. For most people keeping quiet and asking the right questions during a conversation requires practice as the natural impulse is to interject and speak without consciously interacting with the information coming from the opposite end. Remaining silent during a conversation enhances the ability to read nonverbal cues as well as creates a thoughtful pause for participants to come up with additional ideas regarding the topic at hand.
Active listening entails having an affinity for new possibilities and courage to challenge assumptions. Ferrari (52-64) provides various examples that reinforce the importance of having an open mind as a core tenet of active listening. Most people close up to new ideas that challenge their present set of beliefs thereby impeding good listening. During conversations, the goal should be common action as opposed to common thinking. Challenging existing assumptions may involve hypothetically altering facts to allow a discussion on alternative solutions to a problem. Overall, active listeners make better decisions and have better judgments regarding situations because of sharpened skills in information gathering. They elicit greater sense of loyalty and admiration as leaders because they make people feel valued through listening.
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Works Cited Ferrari, Bernard T. Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All. Portfolio/Penguin, 2012.