Do we really LISTEN? Do we really HEAR what people are saying? Are there any methods, tricks, ideas, tips or techniques to make us be better listeners?
Below are some ideas to help those who are having trouble being a good listener. In truth, some of us aren’t good listeners. What do some people do that others don’t in order to be a good listener? If you’re going to ask great questions, then you need to listen to the answers you’re going to get.
Let me ask you. What do you think the difference is between listening and hearing? Don’t we all listen? Don’t we all hear people talk? First, let’s explain the difference. Hearing is physical and listening is mental.
It’s pretty simple. Take a TV commercial. We normally hear it, but do we always listen to it? Probably not. Especially if it’s about something we’re not particularly interested in for ourselves or even others. There were plenty of holiday commercials that I “heard” on TV, but I didn’t really listen to them, because they didn’t interest me. Getting the picture?
Take the Super Bowl ads. We talk about them before they’re even on TV. How many can you remember now? My guess is you’ll recall those that were of ‘interest’ to you. You listened to them. We all ‘heard’ them. We watched them. But again, how many did we really listen to?
Ok, heads up. Here are six easy steps to becoming a better listener. There are more, for sure, but starting with these will help you a lot.
- Decide to be a better listener. That’s like an attitude. You can really decide to be a good listener. It’s a decision. Will everything be of interest or value to you? Maybe not, but not listening might be dangerous. So make a mental decision to listen better to those you talk with, especially if you have asked them a question and they answer. You need to LISTEN to them.
- Welcome the customer on the phone or in person; in business or at a social event. We need to make the person feel welcomed. That in turn helps make you a much better listener. Be obviously friendly when you’re talking with a customer. And it’s got to be sincere. Most folks can tell when you’re not. So bring a welcoming phrase to the table and use it to make the customer feel as though he’s a long lost friend!
- Concentrate. This is not the time for multi-tasking. And today, we can all turn to the left or right and catch someone texting and probably having an in-person conversation as well. One of these things will be in trouble. We simply cannot do two things well at once. Your concentration must be on the customer, again, in person or on the phone. Do nothing else but ‘listen.’
- Keep an open mind. Why do we need to do this? I’ll tell you why. There are some of us who think we know what the other person is going to say before they say it and so we interrupt or interject our comments before the customer can answer. That’s not keeping an open mind. That’s interrupting. Some of the time we’re right and we do know what the person will say. But it’s important to put your teeth in your tongue and not interrupt. By keeping an open mind you’ll gain more information as well.
- Give verbal feedback. Talking with someone and not acknowledging what they’re talking about is very frustrating for them; especially on the phone, because we don’t even have body language to check out. So a few “I see,” “That’s good,” “OK,” “Interesting,” and a few words and phrases like that help the person feel as though you’re listening and listening well. In person, you have the ability to nod and smile and they can SEE your expressions. However, on the phone, we need verbal feedback. And be careful we’re not saying the same word over and over. Like OK, OK, OK, OK. That’s boring to both of you.
- Take notes as you talk. And yes, even in person. That’s perfectly acceptable! Taking notes and letting the person know you are doing it is a sign of great interest. I do it all the time when I’m on the phone. I tell the client, “I’m taking notes so we can refer to them later and so I don’t forget what you’re saying.” No one has ever said, “Don’t do that.” Most say, “Good, that’s super!” Taking notes so you can refer back is a big compliment. Don’t forget to do it.
There you are – six easy steps to becoming a good istener.