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Episode #284 – The Core Value of Active Listening in Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #284 - The Core Value of Active Listening in Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career

Caleb: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health and Veterinary industries. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In fact, The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

Today, we’ll be talking about the core value of active listening in a person’s Animal Health or Veterinary career. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Caleb. As always, I’m glad to be here with you.

Caleb: Stacy, you’ve talked about active listening on multiple occasions on the podcast, but never within the context of being a core value. And I have to admit, I would not have thought of listening as being a core value.

Stacy: I can understand why you would think that. A lot of people might not think of listening as a core value, but when you consider how important communication is in the world, it becomes more understandable. Miscommunication and a lack of communication can wreak havoc, including in a person’s Animal Health or Veterinary career.

Not only that, but a person can think four times faster than they can speak. This means we only need about 25% of our mental capacity to hear the content of a message. With 75% of our brain capacity left, our mind starts to wander and we don’t listen as closely as we could be.

Caleb: Wow, I did not know that! Stacy, what exactly is active listening? How is different from, say “regular listening?”

Stacy: A good listener or someone who is actively listening focuses completely on what another person is saying and engages with their ideas in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. Good listening is not just about hearing what a person is saying, but also making a commitment to digesting the information they are presenting and responding constructively.

Caleb: Why is active listening so important?

Active listening is an important part of your communication skill set because it encourages openness, honesty, and success. When you pay attention to your conversation partner, you show the person that they are being heard, thus building trust and making that person feel like their words matter to you.

Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It is an important first step to defusing a situation or seeking a solution to a problem.

An easy way to remember the components of active listening are what are known as the “three A’s.”

Caleb: What are the “three A’s” Stacy?

Stacy: The “three A’s” are attitude, attention, and adjustment. You must have a positive attitude, you must make sure that you’re giving the other person the proper amount of attention, and you must be willing and ready to make adjustments during the course of the conversation.

Caleb: A positive attitude helps when you’re listening?

Stacy: Yes, it does. A positive attitude paves the way for open-mindedness. For example, don’t assume from the outset that a lecture is going to be dull. If you do, then you won’t give it your full attention and you won’t be actively listening. As a result, you might miss something important or insightful.

In fact, there are multiple steps involved with active listening and following these steps can be helpful for those people who want to improve their listening skills.

Caleb: What steps are those, Stacy?

Stacy: The first step is paying attention, which I just mentioned. The way I like to describe it is that active listening is not simply waiting for another person to stop talking so that you can speaking. It’s actually listening to what the other person has to say.

The second step is deferring judgment. This means listening without judging or jumping to conclusions. Don’t make assumptions about what the person is thinking or is about to say. Instead, wait for them to speak and don’t interrupt them.

The third step is showing that you’re listening. Don’t let your mind wander. Focus on the other person and what they’re saying. Face the speaker while they talk and make sure that you have eye contact with them.

The fourth step is providing feedback. Paraphrase and use nonverbal cues that you’re your understanding. This includes nodding, continuing to make eye contact, and leaning forward. You can also use brief verbal affirmations such as “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” “Thank you,” or “I understand.”

The final step is responding appropriately. Once again, wait until the person is done talking and don’t interrupt them. Even if they said something that you don’t like or agree with, remain calm. Keep your positive attitude and convey to the other person that you understand what they’re saying. People want to know that they’ve been heard.

Caleb: How would a person know if they’ve been actively listening and not fallen into old habits of listening?

Stacy: Rather than giving someone a fraction of your attention, active listening is making a conscious effort to hear, understand, and retain information that’s being relayed to you. It involves more than listening to the words that another person says.

The three parts are hearing the information, understanding the information, and retaining the information. Active listening is about more than just hearing. It’s about understanding.

Caleb: Why is active listening so difficult for some people Stacy?

Stacy: Caleb, there are multiple reasons why it’s difficult, starting with the fact that we’ve become an impatient society. We’ve become conditioned to have everything instantly, when we want to have it, and when that doesn’t happen, we become impatient. Unfortunately, we’ve also become conditioned to disregard the viewpoints of others. It’s good to be confident in your point of view and your beliefs, but it’s not good to totally disregard opposing views and opinions.

An example of poor listening skills is when you hear someone express an opinion that is different from yours and you begin arguing with them or telling them how they’re wrong rather than hearing them out. Not only does this shut down communication, but it also sets up power struggles or silence and withdrawal, which undermine trust and goodwill.

In addition, I believe that we’ve become worse at personal communication during the past several years, which is ironic.

Caleb: That is ironic! There are more ways for people to communicate now than there have ever been.

Stacy: Yes, but it seems that the more methods of communication there are, the worse people are when it comes to communicating with each other on a face-to-face basis.

Caleb: It seems that some people prefer to use communication tools like texting and instant messaging rather than communicating face-to-face.

Stacy: You’re absolutely right. It definitely seems like that is the case, which is unfortunate. Quality face-to-face communication will always been needed, regardless of how many communication tools exist in the world.

Caleb: Specifically, what keeps people from active listening?

Stacy: There are multiple barriers to active listening. They include lacking of listening preparation, poorly delivered messages or negative verbal cues, and prejudice.

Caleb: When you say prejudice, do you mean opinions or judgements that a person might have at the outset of the conversation?

Stacy: Yes, I don’t mean that a person is prejudiced against a certain group of people for whatever reason. It’s based more on the nature of the person’s beliefs about a topic or issue and less to do about the person with whom they’re speaking.

Other barriers to active listening are distractions that exist in the environment.

Caleb: What kind of distractions?

Stacy: External distractions, mostly. These include physical distractions in your environment that divert your attention away from the person who is doing the talking. This is why focus is so important.

One of the biggest distractions and the biggest barrier to active listening is a person’s emotions.

Caleb: Emotions? What do you mean by that?

Stacy: People often allow their emotions to get the best of them during conversations. This is especially the case when they hear something they don’t like. This includes opinions, as I mentioned earlier, but it can also include other things, like feedback. People often receive feedback and constructive criticism and they allow their emotions to cloud their judgment and affect the way they respond to the feedback.

Those people who want to be good active listeners must understand that feedback is not a personal attack. Feedback is actually a gift because you can use it to improve yourself and continue to grow your Animal Health or Veterinary career. However, if you’re emotional about the feedback that you hear, then you might focus more on your emotional response to the feedback instead of objectively processing the feedback itself.

Caleb: Because processing the information and understanding it is part of active listening.

Stacy: Yes, that’s right Caleb.

Caleb: Stacy, we’ve talked about this before with other core values, but how does personal branding relate to active listening?

Stacy: Yes, personal branding is definitely applicable, just like other core values. Personal branding is about the experience that you provide for other people, and when you brand yourself as an active listener, you’re branding yourself in a positive way.

People know when another person is a good listener, and people enjoy talking to people who are good listeners. When you brand yourself as a good listener, people want to talk with you, and that’s a good thing. We’ve already discussed how important communication is, especially in terms of building relationships within the professional setting.

In addition, when more people want to talk with you because you’re an active listener, the more information you can gather. Usually, when a person has more information, they can make better decisions. Now, keep in mind that I’m not talking about gossip. That falls outside the scope of what we’re discussing. Gossip is negative, and you shouldn’t be participating in it, either as a speaker or a listener. If the only time you’re an active listener is when you’re listening to gossip, then you have a problem.

We haven’t touched upon this until now, but it’s good to point out that what you talk about during a conversation is just as important as how you listen during the conversation. The topic of your conversation should not be negative, especially if you’re talking about another person. The goal of active listening is to produce a positive outcome. You go into the conversation with a positive attitude and you finish it with the same attitude, possibly along with knowledge and insight that you didn’t have before.

Caleb: Stacy, we’re just about out of time, so is there anything else that you’d like to add before we wrap up today’s podcast episode?

Stacy: Yes, I may have mentioned this before on the podcast, but active listening is in short supply in the job market. I know this because I talk with hiring managers and company officials who tell me there is a lack of job seekers and candidates who have active listening skills. I’ve seen candidates  in job interview processes get ruled out due to poor listening skills. I witnessed one candidate get ruled out with three different companies due to poor listening skills.

Caleb:  Stacy, you are saying that employers not hiring some job seekers and candidates because they have poor listening skills?

Stacy: Yes, that has been the case in some situations. In fact, I had one hiring manager tell me following an interview with a candidate that the candidate would not stop interrupting her during the interview. It happened over and over again. The hiring manager even asked the candidate not to interrupt her, but the candidate ended up doing it again. Needless to say, the candidate did not receive an offer of employment.

In another instance, a candidate talked non-stop about themselves and the things they wanted during the interview. Instead of focusing on the value that they could offer to the employer and how they could solve the employer’s problems, they kept focusing on their own needs and wants. Even when the hiring manager asked questions designed to find out what kind of value the candidate could offer, the candidate found a way to bring the conversation back to them. The hiring manager was put off by this and no longer considered the candidate for the position.

You can have the skills and you can have the experience, but you must also have important soft skills like active listening. And to me, active listening is more than just a skill. It’s a core value that can help to build long-lasting relationships and grow your Animal Health or Veterinary career. And it’s also a core value of our firm, The VET Recruiter.

Caleb: Stacy, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of this great information about the core value of active listening and a person’s Animal Health or Veterinary career. If the members of our listening audience want to see the full list of The VET Recruiter’s core values, we invite them to visit

Stacy: It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!

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