I'm in the sales business, and in my business learning to listen well is a major key to success. Actually hearing what people are saying, and not just waiting for your turn to speak is critical if you want to learn what it is your customer is looking for in a solution. Knowing what your customer needs, allows you provide a solution that the customer will embrace, and increase your chances of a sale.
Unfortunately, all to often I've been in meetings where there is at least one person who is more interested in formulating what they are going to say next than they are in hearing what the person who's currently speaking has to say. In my business (IT) I find this to be endemic. I suspect that has a lot to do with the passion with which many IT professionals bring to their jobs. That passion is a good thing, but it can also be a two edged sword. Not hearing and absorbing what the current speaker has to say means that they often come across as "preachy" or "professorial" and miss important points of view and information.
So, I would encourage everyone to become a better listener. But being a good listener does not come easy for some of us. It takes time, practice and dedication. What comes to your mind when you think about listening to a friend or co-worker? Do you find yourself thinking about what you want to say in response to what they have said or are you fully engaged with what they are talking about? When it comes to connecting with others, it’s all about consciously listening to them and the information that they are sharing with you.
1. Eye contact
When it comes to being a good listener, it’s important for you to have eye contact with the other person. It shows that you are paying attention and engaged with the conversation. When you don’t have eye contact with the other person, it shows that you don’t care and are not interested in what they have to say. Practice having eye contact with the next person you have a conversation with.
2. Find the “Why” and “What”
For you to be a good listener, you need to find out the “Why” and “What.” Why are they talking to you and what is the message they are trying to share with you? Being a good listener takes practice and when you are able to practice finding out the “Why and “What” of the other person, you will be much more engaged in the conversation.
3. Focus on the other person
It’s easy for us to think about what we want to say after the other person has stopped talking. This will not make you a better listener. If you are constantly thinking about your response, you will always miss out on carefully listening to the other person. Focus on what they have to say. Find out the “Why” and “What” and maintain eye contact. Once the other person stops talking, then think about your response. But while you are listening, you must be consciously listening with your ears. A lot of times, when we listen to people, we are thinking within our brain what we want to say rather than opening our ears and purely listening to their message.
4. Limit distractions
We live in a society that is filled with so many distractions. We are constantly listening to so much noise that it’s a challenge to truly listen to another person. In order for you to be a good listener, you need to limit distractions during your conversation, whether it be the television, telephones or interruptions. It takes a mental decision to limit distractions when you are listening to someone else. How can you possibly be a good listener if you have the television blasting or you phone continues to ring? It would be near to impossible to be a good listener with these distractions. Limit as much interruptions as you can when you are listening to someone else. This not only shows them that you care but you are practicing good social skills.
Engage yourself in the conversation. Being engaged is showing your attention towards the other person. Let the other person know that they have your attention and focus. When you are not engaged in the conversation, the other person will notice and will most likely not want to talk to you again. Show the other person that you care about them and are interested in what they have to say. One way you can show this is by responding with a short comment, such as “Yes” or “I understand.” This expresses to the other person that you are truly listening. Make sure that you allow the other person to primarily do the talking while you are still engaged.
I believe that if you become a better listener, you'll be more successful both in business and in your personal relationships.