I hear a soft knock on my door and I roll over and look at my alarm clock and it says 2 am. This happens every so often when you are a resident advisor in college. You open your door, see a student in a confused state and mentally begin an action plan in your head to help them out. Being a grant writer isn’t so different from being a resident advisor some days. Someone contacts you because “they know you know something about grants” and it goes from there. One of the most important skills as a grant writer, especially when working with someone who isn’t familiar with grant writing, is to be an active listener. Active listening means that you are both listening and responding to your co-worker or clients. You are present and focused on what they are trying to express to you. You demonstrate active listening through body language that shows that you are receptive to what is being discussed and you are asking reflective questions which show that you are listening to the conversation and want to learn more about (in this instance) the grant application. Active listening results in a positive foundation for a collaboration, clear expectations, and people feeling good about how the project will progress. If you’d like to brush up on your active listening skills, here are some resources to help you:
- To see where you are at in terms of your listening skills, take Psychology Today’s Active Listening Skills Test: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/personality/listening-skills-test
- To learn more about the six essential skills to be an active listener, read The Big Six: Active Listening Skill Set from the Center for Creative Leadership: https://www.ccl.org/multimedia/podcast/the-big-6-an-active-listening-skill-set/
- NPR’s Ted Radio Hour has a wonderful podcast on “Active Listening:https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/411697251/the-act-of-listening
- Mindtools has a great article on why active listening is an important skill to master: www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm
- If you’d like to build your team’s active listening skills, Trainers Warehouse has a great blog that lists some fun, interactive activities that you could use: http://blog.trainerswarehouse.com/communication-exercises/
Active listening means really quieting your mind of other activities, turning off screens and alerts, and truly being present with someone. In this world of constant distractions, it’s important to slow down and focus in on what people are saying to us. Building your skills as an active listener is as useful in your professional life as it is in your personal life. Taking the time to truly get to the heart of what an organization is looking to fund, or a challenge a friend or family member is trying to overcome makes you a good a team member and friend. So while you may not always know why someone is knocking on your door and what they want, active listening gives you the tools to identify needs and find solutions.