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Based on where I am at in my career as an accountant, and in my personal life as a wife, mother, daughter, and friend, I have recognized my continual need to become a better listener. I have not always understood what it means to be a good listener, and when I reflect on the past, I don’t necessarily feel like I have been a very good one. This has been an area of growth for me over the years, and I see this as an area of opportunity for many others as well.

There is a reason we were born with one mouth and two ears, and we should focus on using them proportionately. Instead of being the smartest person in the room, we should focus on being the most humble person in the room.

In order to be an active listener, one must listen fully with an intent to understand, rather than to respond. Many times we feel the need to respond immediately, either because we have the answer (or we think we do), or because we feel the need to defend our territory. Being defensive or responding immediately can make the person talking to you shut down, and can be a barrier to positive communication and can hinder growth in a relationship. We need to break down any barriers that exist, in order to build people up and make people feel like they can approach us with ideas, questions, and concerns they may have.

A huge part of being an active listener is in how you respond. It is important to focus on your nonverbal communication, including nodding, facial gestures, posture, eye contact, and body language. It is also important to ask questions. Ask specific questions to let the person know that you are engaged and listening actively. If someone has come to you with a concern or frustration, focus on listening and responding with empathy, reading the person’s emotions, acknowledging them, and responding appropriately.

Hollstadt’s Core Values are First Understand, Be Humbly Confident, Do The Right Thing, and Grow and Prosper. If we approach each day as an active listener, and respond with integrity, we will all live out these values on a daily basis both in and out of the office, and our personal and professional relationships will benefit.