Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf… – Native American Proverb
How long do we actually listen to another person before we start interrupting? How quickly do our own thoughts take over and we start thinking about what question to ask or what we need to say in reply even before they’ve finished speaking? Do we find ourselves interrupting the person to give our own opinion or finish their sentences before they are finished?
If this sounds like you, then you’re not listening you are just waiting to speak and as the Native American Proverb above says, if we keep waiting to speak rather than listening we shall remain deaf.
Many people, especially sales people are not trained to listen effectively. Sales people often worry more about what questions they should ask than paying proper attention to how well they listen. Many people may think that questioning skills are the salesperson’s most powerful communication tool but actually listening is the number one, most powerful communication tool of all. Listening is an essential part of communication and it is not the same as hearing. Being a good listener requires patience and a willingness to pay attention and understand another person, even when we don’t agree with them.
Listening helps us solve problems at work or at home. Listening helps us learn and see the world through the eyes of others. Listening opens our understanding and enhances our capacity for empathy and opens up opportunity which is a primary goal of sales people and their businesses. Listening is particularly effective when disagreements arise. Effective listening can reduce the time it takes to solve problems, settle disagreements and bring back harmony and effective work flow. It is such a powerful experience to really be listened to.
A surefire way to help you improve your listening skills is to make sure to take notes, it really does make you a better listener. Another tip is to create a positive, open space in your own mind freeing yourself of any prejudices when you are listening, regardless of the other person’s initial impact on your own perceptions and judgments. It can be a challenge to let go of judgments but it can be learned and it does work. Why not practice your listening skills with a colleague or friend focusing taking turns to capture what they are saying and checking that you are not waiting to speak? Paraphrase back to them what they have just told you and see how accurate you are.
Hopefully we all know what it feels like when we have been listened to. We feel great knowing the other person understands us. We feel a sense of connection and empathy. There is clarity and connection and we feel we can move on in a purposeful manner.