How to Listen to Your Listening
I am not certain I am attributing this quote correctly, but I believe it was Tony Robbins who said:
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
I often hear people say they are a good listener. Often they are wrong. I know I have seen this subject brought up many times in the past, in sales training, in conversations about how to relate to your kids, or your wife or your colleagues or your customers. But it cannot be repeated often enough. Being a good listener is vital to creating genuine long lasting relationships.
So, what is a good listener? I have met many people who believe they are, who believe that merely by providing the other person a chance to speak without interrupting, they are automatically deemed a good listener. But to listen requires action, not simple silence. Listening is more than meets the ear so to speak.
1. Be quiet. This can be difficult, as people like to hear themselves speak. But that is the point, for them to speak! For goodness sake, just be quiet. Shut up. Let the other person ramble. Listen. Stop. And. Listen. Let’s face it, many of us talk too much. Learn when to shut up. Proceed down the path with an aggressive listening stance. But use your ears, not your mouth, listen. Do not talk over. Do not even open your mouth as if you want to. Smile. Listen. Nod your head. Make little hmmm noises if you have to! But LISTEN. Be attentive. Concentrate on what they are saying, not on what your response will be.
“We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” –Diogenes
2. Absorb. Let their words soak in, wash over you and around you. Feel their tone, their pace, their excitement, or boredom. Pick up on the subtle words they use to describe elements or actions. Sense their frustration, their angst, their emotions. Let their meaning sink in, the thoughts behind the words sift through your consciousness to gain understanding. For that is the objective of a good listener, to gain appreciation, knowledge and understanding of the other person’s position. With intent. Fervor. Passion. Empathy. Don’t sit and relax, wonder what it would be like to be them and think about what questions you would be asking yourself if you were in their shoes. Imagine being them, faced with their problems, what are they worried about? How can you help?
3. Question with aggressive curiosity. After you have learned to Master #1, proceed to start asking better questions. This is when you have to be careful. Do not interrupt. Wait for a pause, wait for a breath, a natural break. Go back to earlier points in the conversation if you need clarification. The types of questions I am sure you have heard people suggest before, but try not to sound like everyone else! You will hear people suggest: How do you feel about that? I hear you saying X, do I have that correct? Can you tell me more about that? Do you want to be different? Say it different, use different words, put it in your own words! How come? What makes you feel that will or won’t work? Are there things standing in your way to making this happen that we haven’t talked about? How will your boss feel if you succeed with this project? Come up with something different, that comes from your curiosity about their situation, and you will be genuine. People respond to genuine questions, not off of a teleprompter or some generic sales training. Then…Repeat #1.
4. OBSERVE. Pick up on the little clues and signals they may leave you. Their keywords or phrases. Listen with your eyes as well. The way they speak with their arms, or the way they don’t. Pick up on their body language. Reading body language is part of listening. Posture, eyes, smiles, arms..all hold many clues. Listen with your eyes, and you will learn.
I have been in sales, marketing, business development all my life. So too, many members of my family. My Dad and I would often have heated conversations about business, sales, and the choices we face, the decisions we make. I sometimes would proceed to get animated, and talkative, and perhaps not listen as well as I should. He would just stop talking until he felt I was listening, and then continue with the point he was making. Most people will not do that, they will clam up and just not engage in active dialog and conversation with you. Don’t let it happen to you. Focus first on #1, and the rest will come.
Hope this helps someone out there. Maybe just as a reminder, as we all stumble from time to time, not remembering the foundations of sales and creating relationships. This is essential, it always helps to go back to the beginning.
Be good to each other!