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Intern Workplace Tip: Practice Active Listening to Become a Superstar
November 9, 2016
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Interns get bonus points for actually listening

We’ve all been there: in the midst of a heated discussion with someone, (not) so patiently waiting for our turn to speak so we can get our point across. Are we really listening to what that other person is saying? Probably not. For interns new to the workplace, active listening can prevent misunderstandings and show your leadership skills.

Hearing is one thing but listening is another

Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re probably not paying attention as closely as we could be. Or, we’re just too focused on what WE want to say to really hear and understand what the other person is saying.

What is active listening?

Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses attention on the speaker. When they talk, give them the floor. Your job is to listen, without reacting, and then repeat to him or her what your interpretation of what they said was.

The listener does not have to agree with the speaker – he or she must simply state what they think the speaker said.

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This form of listening has many benefits:

  • It forces you to listen attentively to others
  • It helps avoid misunderstandings
  • It opens people up to hear YOU
  • It demonstrates respect even if you have differences
  • It shows maturity

How does active listening benefit you in the workplace?

1.It prevents misunderstandings

Did you get a long convoluted email from your boss or coworker that you can’t decipher? Instead of going back and forth via email, ask to chat with them in person. From there, you can listen and then repeat back to them what you think they said (clearing out any miscommunications) and then leave feeling clear about your next steps. They will appreciate that you took the time and courage to clear things up.

2. You’ll appear more attentive

The active listening practice should be done in 1-1 interactions and in group settings. If you’re truly hearing what the speaker has to say at a meeting, instead of half checking your email or doodling, you’ll appear engaged and interested—bonus points! Your boss will definitely take notice that you’re extra aware and attentive, which may lead to better assignments and more responsibility.

3. You’ll become a better leader

A good leader listens. If you want to be in a leadership position one day (or already are at school), the best way to improve workplace respect and build teamwork is to listen to other people’s ideas, concerns and feedback, without arguing for your own agenda.

For interns just starting a career, this is a sign of maturity and sophistication. It does take patience to really listen, especially when others have an opposing point of view.

4. It dissolves anger

People tip: usually people argue and raise their voice because they feel they are not being heard. When you feed back what you heard them say in your own words, they feel heard, and become way less angry. Then they can actually hear what YOU are saying. Try it out on your friends and parents too.

Here’s how to practice active listening:

  • Actively listen while the speaker is talking
  • Wait until they are finished. Do not interrupt.
  • Repeat, in your own words, what you thought he or she said
  • It’s OK to interpret the speaker’s words in terms of feelings, for example, ‘you felt angry or frustrated when…’ (when appropriate)
  • The speaker will likely confirm that you understood what happened or what they said

All of the above is true. And hey, you might actually learn something you didn’t know!