Are you a good listener? Many people think they are and get very surprised when they find that they are not. It’s important in business and in your personal life to listen. Especially if you are in customer service areas as you need to understand your customers’ needs and wants. The better you do this the more successful your business will become.
Many people think good listening is about letting the other person finish what they want to say, not interrupting and making appropriate sounds to let them know you are listening. That is not the case. Often people also repeat back to you what you said as an exercise to show they are listening to you. This can be very annoying and even sometimes patronising.
Recent research shows that good listeners are usually people who ask questions that show interest and prompt discovery of new information. Questions that may challenge a little yet are constructive. A good question tells the speaker that you have understood what they said and want extra information. So good listening is a dialog meaning an active conversation.
Sometimes it’s good to give positive feedback to what the person said as this makes the speaker feel supported, more confident and lets them know there is an atmosphere open to free discussion. Feedback can then be smooth without defensives. It shows you are not looking for errors to pick on and you are not looking to give a challenging response. Of course if you disagree you may challenge what was said but it’s not an argument to be won, it’s a conversation with a constructive end in view.
Good listeners make suggestions and provide solid feedback which may lead to altered perspectives without attacking the other person. Often it is not the fact that someone has a different perspective to you it is the way that perspective is presented. If your objections are presented in a defensive way it can be off putting to reaching solid, constructive conclusions.
Being a good listener does not mean you need to absorb like a sponge the other person’s comments. It’s not about being passive, shaking your head and being silent. Instead you need to bounce back ideas of them, give positive ideas filled with energy to spark interest in what you have to say and ask questions to clarify your thinking.
A quick guide to some things you can do to be a better listener may be to clear away distractions, turn off phones and laptops, focusing on the other person, make eye contact. This creates a good respectful atmosphere for both of you which can enable you to discuss even the most difficult of issues. Taking a step forward there needs to be a genuine desire to understand what the person is saying. What are their ideas? Ask them questions and make sure you clarify anything you don’t understand. Also look for non-verbal cues – facial expressions, perspiration, how are they breathing, sitting etc. Are they crossing their arms, shutting you out? Are they leaning forward – interested? This will help you to add flow to your conversation with them and once you get started you will find the rapport will build and resolution will come more easily to the discussion.
As hard as it may be sometimes try to be non-judgmental and supportive to their opinion, even if you disagree. Don’t jump in with your emotions and stamp on everything they say. Instead clarify why they feel the way they do.
Finally empathy is a very important part of listening. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine things from their perspective. Maybe then you will see a sliver of their point of view.
Listening is a skill and the more you use it the better you will become at it. Being a good listener also has a flip side. It will help you understand when someone is actually listening to you and gives insight into how to bring about reconciliation when they are not listening. Good communication is one of the most important skills we can learn in both our business and personal lives.