One of the first things your parents likely taught you is to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. I’ll expand upon that and say that you should “listen to others as you would like to have others listen to you”. And I am not talking about hearing, relating, interjecting, or advising. I’m talking about LISTENING. Truly listening to understand not just what the other person is saying, but what they are feeling. You need to get the message they are sending as opposed to listening with the intention of replying. Thinking about what we will say next, or about a story that we know which is similar (or not but you think it will be) is distracting us from what the other person is really trying to tell us. This type of “listening” can be very frustrating for the other participant in the conversation, as when they are done, they feel like they have not been heard.
Improving your listening skills can be important in sales, with employees, employers, clients, and even in your family. Try these tricks to become a better listener:
- When a conversation starts, stop everything else you are doing. Give your undivided attention to the person you are speaking with. And if you can’t at that moment, tell them that and setup a time to talk when you can.
- While the other person is talking, make sure your lips are touching each other. Yes, I mean it. You can give a visual cue of listening like nodding your head or smiling, but noises and words are not necessary at this point. It’s not our turn to make noise.
- When the other person finishes their statement and yields the floor to you, wait at least a second or two before opening your mouth. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but try it. Its longer than you think. In today’s fast paced world, most people start talking before the other person is even finished. 2 seconds can feel like a lifetime. But it will give a second for the end of their statement to set in.
- When you do finally speak, start off by summarizing what you think you heard the other person say. You may have heard them incorrectly and your response would be to the wrong message. Note I said message, not words. Every message has a sender and a receiver and what one person intended to say is not always what the other per hears.
- If you got it wrong, give the other person a chance to clarify before you respond. Only then should you give your response, advice, feedback or support.
If you follow these steps, what you say will have much more impact on the other person in your conversation. While that doesn’t guarantee that they will like what you say, they will feel heard and respected for what they have to say. At this point, you are on your way to a stronger relationship.
Michael Giuffrida from Southington CT has been operating businesses since 1997. He is an experienced entrepreneur in business management, profitable growth, business valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and information technology managed security services.