Tips for better listening.

Tips for better listening.
January 8, 2024

One of the most common wishes we hear from sales and customer service managers is that they want their people to be better listeners. There are many reasons to improve your listening skills, not the least of which is that people who listen well are generally more successful than those who don't.

Why don't we listen well? The reasons are many. The main one is that listening takes work. It is challenging work mentally. Actively listening will wear you out; remember those tedious lectures from college? The second reason we tend not to listen well is that we were never taught how to listen. Listening is a skill. Avoid the mistake of confusing listening with hearing. Hearing is involuntary. It just happens. Listening is an active process. You decide to listen. You make a proactive choice. That is good news because it means we can improve our listening skills. How many listening classes have you had?

So here are some tips to help you improve your listening skills for the new year.

Listen patiently to what the other person says, even though you may believe it is wrong or irrelevant. Indicate simple acceptance, not necessarily agreement, by nodding or injecting a very occasional "mm-hmm" or "I see."

Work to understand the feeling the person is expressing and the intellectual content. Most of us have difficulty talking clearly about our feelings, so paying careful attention to their tone, body language, and eye contact is essential.

Briefly but accurately restate the person's feelings. At this stage, you serve as a mirror. Encourage the other person to continue talking. Occasionally make summary responses such as, "You think you are in a dead-end job," or "You feel the manager is playing favorites." In doing so, keep your tone neutral and avoid leading the person to your predetermined conclusions.

Be patient. Avoid direct questions and arguments about facts; refrain from saying, "That is just not true," "Hold on a minute, let's look at the facts." or "Prove it." You may want to review evidence later, but a review is irrelevant to how a person feels now.

When the other person touches on a point you want to know more about, repeat the statement as a question. For instance, if someone remarks, "Nobody can break even on their expense account," you can inquire by replying, "You say no one breaks even on expenses?" With this encouragement, they will probably expand on their previous statement.

Listen for what is not said, evasions of pertinent points, or perhaps easy agreement with typical cliches. Such an omission may be a clue to a bothersome fact the person wishes to conceal or avoid. Listen for context. How does it fit together? What is the meaning?

If the other person wants your view, be genuinely honest in your reply. In the listening stage, limit the expression of your opinions since these may influence or inhibit what the other person tells you.

Do not get emotionally involved. Work to understand first and defer evaluation until later.

Above all, BE QUIET. Let the other person talk. Actively listen to what THEY have to say.

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