We are all familiar with the famous quote by Epictetus:
“We have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Modern Research conducted by Korn Ferry International shows that the ability to actively listen may be more important than any other competency within the workforce! It turns out that active listening is a “compensator” for other abilities.
In other words, while an individual may fall short in other areas, being skilled in active listening can mitigate deficiencies. Skill gaps in areas like Intellectual ability, negotiating or technical acumen can be augmented by active listening. In fact, strengths in other competencies can be improved by strong active listening skills.
Despite the positive affect active listening can have on one’s career, the skill of active listening is often misunderstood and dismissed.
Whether you are the Owner, Manager, Consultant or Salesperson in your organization mastering active listening can improve your performance and the performance of your team members, thereby improving your bottom line.
So how do you become a “Master” of Active Listening?
Becoming proficient in the following steps will encourage you to spend more time processing what you are hearing and demonstrate to the other party that you are genuinely trying to be fully engaged.
- Don’t say a word until you have all the information.
So often in a conversation, the “listener” interrupts the speaker to complete their thoughts, or comment as soon as they have the gist of what is being said. Inadvertently this signals that we feel the speaker’s thoughts are less valuable than our own.
When we listen actively, attentively, we will process what is being said as opposed to muddying the water with our own input. When we give the speaker the room to fully formulate his or her thought we better understand their message. This can be especially beneficial during a sales discovery or scoping out a technical project. The more information that can be successfully imparted, the more successful the resulting project or demo.
- Focus on what is different instead of focusing on what is familiar.
Very often “the listener” will want to pounce on something that sounds familiar- by doing so, we risk pushing the conversation in a different direction than the speaker intended. The “me too!” response can wait. Instead, listen for what is different. By forcing yourself to listen for what is different, you will find yourself hearing things you would normally miss. When we get the complete picture, we are less like to jump to conclusions and make incorrect assumptions. How many times have you assumed you knew what the client was requesting only to find out you made incorrect assumptions which delayed or destroyed a project?
- Encourage the speaker
Inadvertently, we discourage speakers all the time in various ways such as failing to make eye contact, multi-tasking, appearing to be rushed or bored. This results in the speaker feeling discouraged or worse, angry. In a business relationship, discouraging or angering a client could result in losing a deal!
So how do we encourage the speaker?
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker.
- Ask questions to invite more detail and dialogue.
- Show empathy by mirroring the facial expressions and body language of the speaker.
- Do NOT look at your watch.
- Do NOT text or look at your phone!
- Do NOT look at or talk to anyone else while the speaker is talking!
Being listened to by an active listener is validating, encouraging and rare.
People do business with people they like. It is human nature for people to like those who make us feel validated and understood.
A few simple changes in your listening behavior could equal a boost to your bottom line!
P.S. Active listening can improve your personal relationships too!
The Halden Group