Active listening is also possible remotely!

By Samuel GerberDOT Consulting AG

In Switzerland (and probably a lot of other countries) the Federal Council is currently recommending the home office in its catalogue of measures. Remote meetings are once again part of everyday life and the boundaries between work and everyday life are becoming blurred. Many distractions wait at home. The full dishwasher, the dirty laundry, the whining child. Those who think they can do this in parallel during remote sessions have not yet heard of active listening. Full attention must be paid to the other person! And this is all the more important in the digital world, where misunderstandings often arise because we don’t “see” and “hear” each other F2F.

As already explained in the F2F Active Listening blog, there are seven simple practical tips and tricks for active listening – the supreme discipline. These can also be applied for remote sessions – easily adaptable – accordingly!

TIP 1. Don’t let yourself be distracted @ Remote

Do you really want to live active listening in its perfection? Then please use only one screen in this case. This also applies to the mobile phone! This way you are – at least almost – completely with your counterpart. So, be aware of the distractions lurking around the house. They are almost unavoidable. Doorbell – Food Order is already there! The child comes into the room without knocking. So plan properly where possible and inform the family that an important meeting is about to begin. If it happens anyway, just smile and become famous. 

TIP 2. Listen more than you speak @ Remote

Here it is particularly worthwhile to use visual signals in remote meetings. Because especially auditory interruptions – which technically often arrive at the opposite party with a delay – interrupt the “flow” enormously. Maybe you have a new rule like “speaking time” and all participants take a stop watch! Objective: Everyone has only 5 minutes speaking time. The rest of the time is spent working together on a topic. As soon as the respective signal tone sounds, your personal speaking time is over and you put yourself on mute!

Or simply question yourself continuously in dialogue:

  • Am I listening or am I already absent?
  • Is what I want to contribute valuable for the process?
  • If I do have something to say, do I manage to say it consistently without BUT? 

TIP 3. Make sure that you understand your counterpart correctly @ Remote

It is essential to let others finish their talk. If something is not understood, ask accordingly. If necessary, use the chat function available in every remote tool. If necessary, other team members can also help here and provide assistance. That is what makes strong teams! What helps especially well is visualization. Do you already know our training Visual Facilitation? With “Paper” in App Store, for example – also part of the learning offer – you can do this wonderfully digitally!

TIP 4. Start a conversation with trust, not with haste @ Remote

Who would you never send a postcard to in your life? 

Start the next session with an Icebreaker. Maybe at check-in everyone leaves the room briefly with their mobile phone or laptop in hand. Show what you have in the fridge, which new plant you have planted on the balcony or which new picture is hanging on the wall. Why, it adds an element to create trust? By sharing personal details and finding common ground. Questions like: What was the best event last weekend? Or what’s for dinner tonight? No one can avoid a question. Whether he finds it funny, cheeky or stupid: the answer is mandatory. Maybe ask a different kind of question next time? This exchange leads to closeness. Together in front of loneliness. Especially important in the present time!

TIP 5. Pay attention to your non-verbal communication and that of your counterpart @ Remote

And that’s why the camera is so indispensable. In our sessions it is part of the rules of the game that all participants with a camera are ON Board. Only in this way can we “read” their needs as facilitators. Is the camera position also set correctly? Or is only half of the face visible? Everything already experienced! And for the laundry done in the background – see distraction – there is, as is well known, the soft filter.

TIP 6. Stay authentic @ Remote

Always keep calm! There can and will always be technical hurdles. Sometimes the network is dead. Sometimes your counterpart is on mute. Support each other and find a solution. 

TIP 7. Question clear and direct @ Remote

It remains difficult, if not impossible, in a remote session to look at a specific person, when in a group meeting. Therefore, when you have a question to the other(s), mention your name first and mention the name of the one you want to address. If possible, focus on closed questions, so that everyone stays within their speaking time! 



The proof of the pudding is in the eating! What other good practices do you apply? We are looking forward to your comments!

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