Published by The Nashville Business Journal
One skill that virtually all of us can improve is listening—really listening. Let’s face it, most of us spend a large percentage of our waking hours listening to other people—spouses, family, coworkers and customers. That means we have a great opportunity to improve our skills in quality listening.
How many times has someone close to you been talking and interrupted your train of thought with the question, “Did you hear what I said?” And it is highly likely that we only heard a portion of what was said. It happens all the time. We are human, but we can improve. Here are some listening tips:
Concentrate. When we try to think about more than one thing at a time, we cannot possibly give our full attention to the person talking. The solution? Concentration. Don’t allow your thoughts to wander. Focus on the person and the topic being discussed. You will quickly earn the respect of others by listening carefully and attentively.
Listen first with your eyes. Look at the speaker directly so you stay focused. Don’t let your eyes (and thoughts) wander. And don’t even consider your response until the person is finished expressing his thoughts. If you are busy formulating your next words, you are not listening. Focus on both the person and the message.
Question and engage. The message you are receiving is important to the person delivering it, and it may very well be of real benefit to you. If the message is not clear, ask for more information and clarification. Questioning and engaging in dialog helps you grasp the topic and confirm that you are really listening.
Remove distractions. Gain the respect of friends, family, customers and coworkers by taking the time to listen intently—and free of distractions. Put away the papers; shut off the phone; and focus on the person speaking. If someone comes to your office, sit in front of your desk facing your guest so that all distractions are behind you.
Make an appointment. Supervisors know that the best ideas come from those closest to the work, and therefore must be diligent about listening to every idea coming from team members. If someone wants to speak to you and you are busy, simply say, “I am busy right now. Let’s set a time to discuss the topic.” Then be sure you are there at the appointed time.
Focus on a tangible result. You can only provide the right solution for your customer after you listen carefully and thoroughly to fully understand their true needs, right? With this in mind, most high-achieving sales people will tell you that listening is their most important skill. Effective listening simply means more sales.
It takes a personal commitment and real concentration to become an outstanding listener, but there is no time like the present to put in place a personal development plan to really improve your listening practices.