People say the most amazing things when you listen! Really, it’s incredible the things you’ll hear if you just shut your pie hole and listen.
It’s my new hobby! I’m addicted to listening.
I’ve re-discovered an ancient “success” secret. If you ask questions and then stop talking and just sit and listen, clients, prospects and friends will tell you how to deal with them. It’s true, and if you’re selling something, they will tell you how to sell them.
You just need to listen.
If you watch closely, most people are listening for their next chance to talk. So they’re not really listening, they’re thinking about what they can say next, regardless of what is being said. Some people just love to hear themselves talk.
Here is the key, listening is such a lost art that if you practice it and perfect it, you may be one of the few people in your industry who know how to do it. And, if you do, you will always win, guaranteed. Remember, listening is an art form. It is a skill that can be learned.
I found an article in Forbes.com on developing effective listening skills. Here are some of the suggestions they recommended along with some of my own observations.
Step 1: Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
If you say you’re listening while you’re scrolling through your emails, you’re not listening. I’ve had that happen and it is frustrating, let alone disrespectful. My solution, if that happens, is to just stop talking. You must at least act like you’re listening to what the speaker is saying. How much they open up and tell you is first determined by how much they believe you are actively listening.
Step 2: Be attentive, but relaxed.
Once you’ve made the eye contact, relax and enjoy the conversation. It’s kind of creepy if you just stare at the speaker but focus on them. They will appreciate it and feel it.
Step 3: Keep an open mind. Listen without judgement.
Don’t mentally “criticize” the things the speaker might tell you. If what they say freaks you out, don’t create mental judgements. When you do that it taints your thinking and risks your effectiveness as a listener.
Step 4: Don’t get bored!
Concentrate. Even if the speaker begins to yammer on and you find yourself thinking about what you’re doing this weekend, stop, refocus and again, work at listening.
Don’t interrupt. Just because people get by with it on television talk shows, doesn’t mean that it’s ok to interrupt in a normal conversation. People who interrupt drive me nuts. Interruption sends several messages, and none are good, like:
- “I really don’t care what you’re telling me!”
- “What I have to say is more interesting…”
- “This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest, and I’m going to win.”
Step 6: Avoid one-up Manship!
We all know that person, that when you’re sharing a story or event individually or in a group, will always say, “that’s great but listen what I did!” Look, even if you discovered a way to make gold from cheese, it’s not appropriate to interrupt and steal the speaker’s moment.
Step 7: Don’t impose your “solutions”.
This is a big one. If the speaker sees that you really want to listen, they will continue to open up and tell you more, in the hope that you are actually listening. But if they say something that you know you can help them with, the last thing you should do is seize the moment and POUNCE. When you jump on that one thought and give them a sermon about how you can help, you have just blown it. All hope that the speaker might have had of you listening to their entire story has just been dashed. You have just stopped the progress and momentum of the conversation. The speaker then simply gives up and just stops.
Step 8: Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
This is a great technique to show the speaker that you are truly listening. If you don’t understand something they said, it’s ok to wait for a pause and then say, “If I may ask, can you tell me a little more about what you just said, I’m not sure I understand.”
Step 9: Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues.
You can learn as much about the speaker by what isn’t said as what is said. The key to be a good listener is also about being just as good of an observer. Watch the speakers body language. Watch their eyes, their mouth, how they’re sitting or standing while they talk. Look for excitement, irritation or boredom. Watch for signs of when to ask questions and when to just listen.
These are just a few of the key elements of building your listening skills. I’m not asking, I’m telling you to become addicted to listening. Learn the skill and practice it. It’s free, you just must commit to do it and make it a discipline. Very few people have mastered the skill. And, I guarantee you that if you commit to be an expert of listening, people will want to know you and to do business with you. Take advantage of the opportunity now.
Did you hear what I just said? Ok, I thought so.