We can all be sitting in the same place and listening to the same thing, yet hear something different. The reason often is our level of attention to what’s being presented and our ability to focus or be distracted.
What is Listening?
Listening is a matter of paying attention. The more closely you listen, the more you will hear.
I remember hearing Roy Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads telling me, “you can close your eyes, but you can’t close your ears.” Even the best ear plugs only reduce, but never eliminate all sound.
How Are Your Listening Habits?
“Poor listening habits are responsible for many of our daily woes. Whether it’s a damaging disagreement, a miscommunication or an awful customer service experience, the problem of human communication is often as simple as a failure to pay attention and truly hear what the other person is saying,” writes Jim Smith in Fast Company.
“Good listening is like tuning in a radio station. For good results, you can listen to only one radio station at a time. Trying to listen to my wife while looking over an office report is like trying to receive two radio stations at the same time. I end up with distortion and frustration. Listening requires a choice of where I place my attention. To tune into my partner, I must first choose to put away all that will divide my attention. That might mean laying down the newspaper, moving away from the dishes in the sink, putting down the book I’m reading, setting aside my projects.” -Robert W. Herron, Homemade
Larry King is famous for being a good interviewer. Larry says that his ability to listen to his guests and really hear what they are telling him, spawns his best questions.
Listening & Sales
If you truly want to understand what another person is saying, you need to listen with full engagement and make a connection to that other person on an emotional level.
In sales, this can be powerful, because people buy with their emotions and justify their purchases with logic.
Sales people often lose a sale simply because they weren’t fully listening to what a client was telling them. But sales people who focus on what a client is saying find they offer plenty of clues as to how to steer the conversation and make a sale.
Sales people who keep talking and selling their services versus listening, often leave a client meeting scratching their head wondering why they didn’t make the sale.
The Pitfalls of Poor Listening
Everyone can benefit from developing better listening skills, not just sales people.
Writer Charles Swindoll once found himself with too many commitments in too few days. He got nervous and tense about it. “I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day,” he said. Before long, things around Swindoll’s home started reflecting the pattern of his hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.
“I distinctly remember after supper one evening, the words of our younger daughter, Colleen,” Swindoll said. “She wanted to tell me something important that had happened to her at school that day and she began hurriedly by saying ‘Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ and I’ll tell you really fast.’
Suddenly realizing her frustration, Swindoll told his daughter, “Honey, you can tell me and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.”
Swindoll says he never forgot her answer, “then listen slowly.”
Are You Listening?
While it’s easy to listen, listening well is hard, but it is a skill well worth your investment in learning how to do. I’m still working at it for myself.
To our peril we’d rather hear ourselves talk, then listen to someone else.
Learning to listen well requires discipline, effort and intention. The average human has an attention span of 8-seconds and today’s world offers more distractions and competition for our attention than at any time in history.
Being a good listener can open you up to new information that could be beneficial to you.
Now here’s the irony about becoming a good listener, good listeners are often told they’re good conversationalists.
- Ask open-ended questions that gently probe beneath the surface, and can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”
- Listen to learn
- Watch carefully for nonverbal communication indicating what a person is comfortable sharing
- Repeat back what they’ve heard to be sure they heard correctly
- Are not afraid of the silence while another person is thinking
- Wait until the other person is finished talking before responding
Good listeners make friends, sales and are always welcomed wherever they go.
Become a good listener and a new world will open before you.