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Unleash Your Superpower: Active Listening

AI Can't Listen. Only We Can.

The current state of the job market reflects the realities of today. Employment opportunities arise or disappear in response to the prevailing political, economic, social, and technological demands and conditions. In the same manner, jobs can be created or entirely abandoned. Knocker upper, hush shopkeeper, phrenologist, scissors grinder, and pinsetters are among many jobs that have died out in the past and thus no longer exist. (If you've never heard of these jobs, don't worry, that makes the most of us!)

We have entered a new era of robots and artificial intelligence (AI). We witness the substitution of cashiers with kiosks and the integration of AI-powered tools like ChatGPT that expedite certain aspects of our daily tasks. It seems only inevitable that we will see significant changes in the job market in the near future. Consequently, we are compelled to contemplate not only how to survive but also how to prosper amidst the dynamic waves of change.

We need to think about what we, only humans, can do. After all, AI cannot think itself. AI solely relies on the data it is fed. Humans, however, possess the ability to think critically and creatively. By identifying and prioritizing tasks that are exclusive to human skills, we can position ourselves as leaders and harness the advantages of emerging technologies more effectively.

Among many things, we would like to emphasize the seemingly simple, yet highly underrated, extremely critical skill: listening.

It is More Than Words

Voice assistants like Bixby, Siri, or Alexa have undoubtedly brought convenience into our lives. Instead of manually typing every word, we can simply express our needs verbally, and then within seconds, they assist us in finding the desired information.

However, anyone who has utilized their services can readily recognize that they have clear limitations. While they excel at swiftly executing tasks and retrieving information, their understanding is strictly one-dimensional. They can neither interpret nor define what's expressed beyond said words.

Listening is so much more than just hearing the words someone is saying. Impactful active listening comprehends the context in which words are exchanged, as well as recognizes other vital verbal and nonverbal cues. Elements such as voice inflection, tone, facial expressions, and body language. Through engaging in active listening, we can remain fully present with those we are interacting with and gain a clear understanding of what they are trying to communicate.

Take a moment and reflect on all the sentences you've uttered today. We are highly confident that not all of them were meticulously defined, precisely structured, and vividly depicted. A substantial portion of our spoken words are in fact scattered, naïve, unpolished, and even incoherent. Nevertheless, we are able to effectively communicate because listeners are able to comprehend and establish connections. This is our superpower. Our words alone often cannot convey our thoughts and feelings with precision. It is the amalgamation of verbal context and nonverbal cues that brings forth the much-needed clarity to decipher and understand the conundrum at hand.

Listen, Understand, and Triumph

A wealth of research has proved the profound impact of listening. In an organizational context, practicing effective active listening has a wide array of positive outcomes not only for companies, but also for leaders, and individuals. These benefits include:

  • Building stronger relationships: Active listening fosters deeper connections and rapport among individuals. It strengthens the overall fabric of relationships within an organization.

  • Developing greater trust: Trust is nurtured and fortified, creating a supportive and open work environment.

  • Facilitating more effective team collaborations: Active listening enhances teamwork and collaboration. Also, it promotes a culture of shared understanding and collective problem-solving.

  • Enhancing individual and group decision-making: Through attentively listening to diverse perspectives, better-informed decisions can be made which will lead to improved outcomes.

  • Increasing productivity: Active listening reduces miscommunication and misunderstandings. This results in greater efficiency and productivity across the organization.

  • Stimulating creativity and innovation: By valuing and attentively listening to different ideas and viewpoints, a climate of creativity and innovation is fostered, encouraging new and inventive solutions.

Stephen Covey, in his widely acclaimed international bestseller, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", delineated seven fundamental principles that serve as the bedrock for achieving both personal and organizational success. The 6th habit is this: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” Covey explains, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” It is all too easy for us to succumb to the temptation of mentally disengaging when listening to someone. Many times, our minds are busy formulating our own responses. By doing so, we hinder our capacity to make a genuine connection with the speaker.

Practical Tips to Become an Effective Listener

Active listening is indeed a vast and valuable field that merits study and practice. While we anticipate delving deeper into this topic in future discussions, in this article, we would like to share a few practical tips to instantly improve your non-verbal communication.

  1. Be attentive: Devote your full attention to the speaker and ensure a thorough understanding of the conveyed information. Avoid distractions such as incoming calls or social media updates. Always remain present and engaged in the moment. Face the speaker directly, indicating your engagement and interest.

  2. Remove barriers: Eliminate all unnecessary physical barriers. Things such as desks, chairs, laptops, or even coffee mugs, may create a sense of distance or hinder open communication. Be intentional to foster an environment of openness. If possible, move closer to the speaker to convey attentiveness. Don't forget to respect the other person's personal space!

  3. Gestures matter: Research suggests that mirroring others' words and gestures fosters a sense of connection. Be attentive to what the other person is gesturing. You may benefit from building pleasant social interactions by mimicking the speaker's gestures. In addition, particular gestures signal your genuine interest and receptivity. For instance, tilting your head toward the speaker and maintaining consistent eye contact demonstrate respect and attentiveness to the speaker.

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