Are You a Professional Listener?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen R. Covey
Let me take that one step further. Most people never listen, period. That includes my doctor, my handyman and the last car salesman I visited. I can only hope that air traffic controllers listen.
Why is listening so difficult? Why is listening so important? Do people who listen do better than people who don’t listen? Can you become a great listener?
All are rhetorical questions and all are worth exploring.
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I think listening is hard because concentrating is hard.
We all have a lot going on and we live in a sound bite world. People swear to me that they can text and listen at the same time, drive and listen at the same time, or whatever and listen at the same time. Not true.
As well, psychologists tell us that we focus on nonverbal clues, body language and vocal intonation, while someone is talking. So there’s little time to listen, even without the distractions provided by technology.
Lastly, we can process words faster than people can say them. So we have a lot of extra time to think of other things while the other person is talking. Think of the new and nervous Advisor amped up and ready to spew out his presentation. We’re lucky we hear anything.
Listening properly is as important as it gets for one simple reason.
You can’t learn without listening. We listen to learn about the other person’s goals, fears, motivation and reluctance. Without that knowledge, we are dead in the water. Also, listening is polite.
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Prospects and clients do business with people they like. If someone gets it in his or her head that you are not paying attention, he will dislike you immediately. Further, every word you say diminishes the power of the previous word. You can’t talk while you’re listening. Lastly, it’s their meeting, not yours. You’ll have plenty of time to talk in a successful, long-term relationship.
People who listen do far better than people who walk on someone else’s lines.
Did you ever walk away from someone totally impressed with him or her, only to realize you did all the talking? Enough said.
Anyone can become a great and professional listener.
Don’t interrupt. Make eye contact. Don’t get distracted. Put your ego away. Don’t offer your opinion as fact. Lean in. Give feedback. Don’t look for openings. And above all else, care.