Of the relationship-enhancing skills our clients practice getting better at, listening is often the one that makes the biggest difference—whether you’re trying to acquire or keep a client, solve a problem, or build a culture of productivity and autonomy.
Listening strategy number one—Listen more than you talk.
• If you understand what motivates people, you will understand how to more effectively influence them. You get that information by listening.
• People are more likely to listen carefully to you, if they know you have listened carefully to them.
• Everyone likes to be listened to. So listen and people will feel more positive, and that makes them more productive and open to new ideas.
• People virtually never get bored when they’re talking about themselves. In a conversation where you are listening to them, they will tend to remember you as interesting. And interesting makes you memorable.
But aren’t people paying to get my expertise; my answers to professional questions? Don’t they care if I’m well informed and knowledgeable? Yes, and:
• Yes, they are. And they can hear you best after they’re sure you understand them and what they’re concerned about. After they are convinced you respect and even care about them as individuals.
• Rebalancing your talking to listening ratio opens the door to people being able to hear your professional guidance.
But what if I’m getting bored?
• First remind yourself that this is about them not you. Then:
• Try asking a question. A truly curious question is a great demonstration that you’re listening. So ask and then listen some more.
What if they have misunderstood something and I need to correct it?
• Wait for them to stop talking—be certain it is a stop not just a pause.
• Then give them a quick update and ask if they want to know more about it. If they don’t, listen some more.
What if they ask a question?
• Give a brief answer.
Know that the odds are your brief answer is too long for them. Try making one quick point and ask if that answers their question.
The odds are also great that they didn’t make their real question clear or you misunderstood it to start with.
Primarily you need to remind yourself that a question shouldn’t change the ratio of listening to talking.
A heads up:
• Most people badly misjudge how much of the time they talk versus listen. Most men have a tendency to both talk more and judge their ratio of talk to listening more poorly than most women.
• Consciously try to listen twice as much as you talk. If in doubt, you’re probably talking too much.
• Put a reminder in front of you.
“Listen more!” is one possibility.
“What subtle information did you miss?” Might tweak your awareness to listen more.
“Ask curious questions.” Is another possibility.
“Listened lately?” is a bit more in your face.
• Use your phone’s stopwatch function to track when you’re talking—start this with a trusted colleague or in team meetings and tell everyone what you’re doing. Your activity will remind everyone to only say what’s important, and to listen! Tracking any behavior tends to keep it more front and center in your mind.
You can virtually never get into trouble listening.
Want to be better than just not getting in trouble? Listen even some more. Our clients have told us that the active practice they get in meetings with us, as well as being accountable, has helped vastly increased their listening skills—resulting in more clients, more satisfaction among their team, and more pleasure for them going to work each day.
Call or email us if you think it would be useful to move your communication skills forward.