Listening is a skill that we develop. Done well it can increase knowledge, build relationships, and generate ideas. Done poorly it can lead to a breakdown in loyalty and respect. We are all in situations everyday where we must listen to others. It may be our spouse or kids, it might be a boss or co-worker, or it may be an important customer or supplier.
John Maxwell, in his book Becoming A Person of Influence, gives us 9 things we can do to become more accomplished listeners.
1. Look At The Speaker: True listening is giving the other person your undivided attention. It means turning off the TV, putting down the newspaper, and focusing on what the other person is saying.
2. Don’t Interrupt: Show respect to the other person by not interrupting. Most people react poorly to being interrupted in the middle of what they are saying. If you step on their ideas it’s like stepping on their toes.
3. Focus On Understanding: Listen with your eyes to pick up both content and feelings. Show empathy and acceptance and focus on the message and a possible message behind the message.
4. Determine The Need At The Moment: Is the other person sharing with you to receive comfort or do they want you to solve the problem? Are they just venting or are they trying to persuade you to do something? You may find the other person’s needs may not match your expectations. Finding the person’s current need will help you put the conversation in the proper context.
5. Check Your Emotions: Do you become highly emotional during certain conversations? If so, check your emotions and let the other person finish explaining their point of view or ideas before you respond. By taking a deep breath or counting to ten before responding, will let you more clearly express your ideas.
6. Suspend Your Judgment: As John says… you can’t jump to conclusions and be a good listener at the same time. Take the time to hear the whole story or you may miss an important point.
7. Sum Up At Major Intervals: Comment on what is being said and craft the response in a personal way. Sum up what is being said at regular intervals. As the speaker finishes a subject replay their major points before going on to the next one and make sure you understand the message.
8. Ask Questions For Clarity: In your conversations ask follow up questions and seek clarification. Become a good reporter. If you ask in a caring and non-threatening way, you’ll find the other person will open up and share their experiences with you.
9. Always Make Listening Your Priority: No matter how busy you become, remember the importance of being a good listener. Focus on what the other person is saying and hear them out.
In my years that I spent in sales I quickly discovered the key to increasing sales was to become a better listener. When I would listen and ask follow up questions I could find out what my customer truly needed. It was then much easier to offer products and services that matched their needs.
In our early years of marriage my wife and I attended a weekend marriage conference. In those three days I learned to truly listen to my wife. By becoming a better listener I became a better husband. I can truly say that heartfelt and focused listening is the key to a happy marriage.
Focus on these tips in your next conversation. You’ll be amazed at the results.