Four Sure-fire Ways to Better Listening
by Connie Kelly
Zeno of Citium, a 300 BC philosopher said, “We have been given two ears and one mouth so we may listen more than we say.” That his quote is still relevant today speaks volumes about how much we really have NOT learned to listen.
Whether it is a co-worker, a client, or a prospect, your ability to listen greatly contributes to your success. Chances are you fully prepare for your sales presentation, for example. You put together a great slide deck, work out what you’ll say, how you’ll say it, and consider possible objections. Your handouts are crisp and professional. But, do you give much thought about building in opportunities to ask questions? Do you know when and how you’ll invite and allow the client to speak and share concerns, and ideas? In other words, have you planned to listen?
Conversation is not a competition. Often we go wrong when we make the interaction about ourselves and our needs, or when we try to outdo the other person. So, let’s take a step back and consider the best ways to engage with others.
Be present. Turn off the inner commentary and judgment. Remember this is precious time. Avoid being distracted by what’s going on in your head.
Attend. Focus on the other person and their message—make eye contact, nod, lean in, and use open body language.
Ask clarifying questions. Hone in on key elements of what you’re hearing. Ask questions that begin with: “Is it that...?” “What more do you need to know?” “Are you saying...?” “Am I understanding that...?”
Respond with the other person in mind. Notice if they like small talk or if they tend to get right to the point? When they ask a question, is it concise, and close-ended? Do they like to throw out a series of ideas and think out loud? Learn to pay attention to how the other person communicates so you can adjust your style to theirs. For those who like conciseness, use short sentences and limit the details. When talking with more verbal types, use descriptive language and anecdotes.
Because we so rarely feel listened to, it feels like a gift when we are. We do business with people we like and trust. What better way to build trust, than to listen more carefully? The next time you are in a conversation, I challenge you to do less talking and more listening. Zeno would be happy.
Connie Kelly is a Communico facilitator with over 30 years experience in helping others communicate more effectively through the spoken word and in writing.