The Lucrative Results of Listening Twice as Much as We Speak
Grandma always said, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Grandma didn’t graduate from Wharton, but her words of wisdom are central to building better client relationships by mastering the art of listening.
Step 1: Social media proves that people love to be heard. Ironically, it can also prevent us from being an effective listener. How many times during a meeting or a conference call have you used your phone to check your e-mail or your Twitter feed. It’s important to clear a path to active listening. Put away distracting thoughts and distracting devices so you can give the speaker your undivided attention. And while it’s always easier said than done, try not to let your personal beliefs, judgments or assumptions act as a filter to distort what you’re hearing.
Step 2: Give cues that you are listening. How do you typically show the speaker that you’re actually listening? Is your head buried in your note book? Are you busily typing away on your laptop? What’s the speaker’s tone? What is their body language telling you? Your diligent note taking could be preventing you from “hearing” the full message. Make sure your posture is open and receptive. Smile, nod and use facial expressions to show you’re in tune with what the speaker is saying. And if you’re spending time in your head composing your response… STOP IT! Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. Check out what our client, Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery, has to say about the value of listening.
Step 3: Try not to interrupt. No one likes to be cut off mid thought. It wastes time and it tells the speaker that your opinion is more important than theirs. Allow them to finish before you offer comments and counter arguments. When it time to provide feedback, use it as an opportunity to reflect on what’s been said. Elucidate what you heard the other person say by summarizing their comments. Ask questions to clarify certain points, and ask open-ended questions to open the door for deeper discussions.
Step 4: Respond with respect and understanding. As a trusted advisor, you need to be candid, open and honest when you respond, but keep an open mind and turn the tables before you speak. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling and respond in way that ensures understanding. It’s also a good idea to summarize what was said to ensure you can follow through on their expectations.
Active listening costs nothing. It can improve the relationships you have with you clients and within your own company. It can boost productivity and it will definitely decrease costly revisions. On the flip side, the conflicts and misunderstandings, poor quality and rework add up brought on by lazy listening leads to disgruntled co-workers and dissatisfied customers.