Has someone ever cut you off during a story you were telling? Maybe they jumped in on how they had a similar experience but worse! It happens to everyone, and chances are you are guilty of the same crime. It’s when you stop listening and start focusing in on “you.”
Active listening is the key to building genuine, long-lasting professional relationships and long-term success in business. What seems like it should be a simple task, active listening appears to be a lost art. What makes active listening different? Active listening is the act of hearing what someone else is saying with the intention of understanding, not just to respond. Most people typically listen to respond in professional situations.
The better you listen to your client, the better you can service your client and the better relationships you have with your clients. How do we change our habits? How do we become better active listeners? Here are five tips to become a better listener:
- Body Language: The way you interact plays a significant role in how well you listen during a conversation. First, always maintain eye contact. When you look at the speaker in the eye, it helps minimize distractions and focus you on the current discussion. Additionally, make sure your stance is open and inviting. Lean in during conversations and open your body to keep the other person at ease. This simple step will help the speaker to open up, and in turn, you will be able to uncover more information in the conversation.
- Take Notes: Taking notes during a meeting forces you to listen for the critical points of what the speaker is saying during the conversation. It does not matter if you choose to take notes electronically or with pen and paper (I prefer paper!), as long as you are listening to what is being said and writing down the key takeaways from the conversation. Notes helps you process that information to pull out what is most important. Plus, the notes will serve as a reminder as to what happened for your next conversation.
- Question & Clarify: During the conversation, make sure to ask to follow up questions or for clarification. When you are actively listening to a person and processing what was said, it is only regular to have follow up questions. If the speaker says something that you weren’t expecting or isn’t completely clear, ask them to elaborate or give you more information. You can ask questions like, “What I hear you are saying is…” or “What do you mean when you say…” Questions will help take the conversation to a deeper level.
- Reflection & Summarization: During the conversation, make sure to summarize or reflect on what the speaker is saying. It is similar to the trick of repeating someone’s name during an introduction to help you remember the name. If you summarize and reflect on the speaker’s words during a conversation, not only do you process the information better, but the person you are speaking with will know you are engaged and likely open up more in the conversation. You can use statements like, “Interestingly, you mention…” or “I agree/disagree with…” Summarizing will not only help you remember but also ensure you hear your prospect wants you to understand with no confusion.
- Avoid Interrupting: The most important tip to remember is never to interrupt. We all know interrupting is rude, but it will also make the speaker less likely to open up and prevent you from achieving your goal, which is to learn from the prospective client’s conversation. It can be tempting when clarifying or summarizing to want to jump in and start talking, but try to refrain. Let the speaker finish and listen to everything you can learn from the conversation.
Active listening isn’t just for customers; it’s crucial with your employees and business partners as well.
What’s your best tip to make sure you are listening more than you are talking?
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