Are You Really Listening?

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Last week we discussed how writing can help you to learn and share. The same could be said about listening. There's a great deal to learn from listening intently to others. By doing so, you will also become better at sharing your knowledge and create mutual win-win solutions . Too often we relate how well we communicate through the spoken word by the breadth of our vocabulary or how eloquently we can deliver an explanation, presentation or speech. However, I believe that listening can contribute up to 70% of our verbal communication effectiveness.

I learned early on in my sales career to carefully create and ask proper questions when communicating with my clients and then listen to what they really needed and wanted from me and my company. A salesperson could have the best price on the best quality product in the marketplace. But it's only the best if they can find the right clients who need their product and are capable and willing to purchase it. You discover this only by being a good listener. If I had to guess, I would say that at least 50% of the sales presentations made each day, are made to suspect clients who have no need for the product and would never purchase it. That a lot of wasted time and energy expended daily, that could be avoided by asking proper questions and listening intently.

By listening to what others are saying, you can learn a great deal about that individual's needs and wants and be better prepared to provide solutions for them. This does not only apply to sales. It applies to every relationship we encounter during every day of our lives. Listening is one of the most important skills you can learn, to enrich as well as nurture any type of relationship.

One of the most critical parts to becoming a better listener is to let the other person finish speaking before you weigh in with a response. Listening intently and allowing the other person the courtesy to clearly state what is on their mind will help you to understand the whole conversation better. Too often, individuals have a tendency to interrupt one another, after their first sentence is completed. If you gave the person you are speaking with the time to fully explain themselves, there would be much less of a chance of misinterpreting what they are saying. Just think about all the frustrations and hard feelings that could be avoided, if you allowed someone the courtesy of explaining their thoughts in detail. And you really understood what was on their minds.

Another critical part of the listening process is to avoid beginning a conversation with a predetermined agenda of how the conversation will evolve and eventually end. Have an open mind when you converse with someone and don't attempt to be a mind reader, assuming that the person you are speaking with "must act" in a specific fashion. If you already believe you know the outcome from a conversation, you tend to turn a deaf ear to that person and won't hear a word they are saying. To absorb what someone is saying, you need to look them in the eyes and concentrate on every word. You can't have your mind wandering off in space. You must focus on each sentence and absorb the total content of their thoughts before responding.

Life would be so much more pleasant and satisfying, if we really listened to what others were saying before we responded. By doing so, you are illustrating that you really care about their thoughts and ideas, whether you agreed with them or not. You'll strengthen your relationships with others and each of you will respect each other much more.

It's seems common to listen more intently to people you first meet, who may have some influence in your future success. If one is trying to make a good first impression on a new employer or employee, they may listen intently to them. On the other hand, it's common to take for granted, those we know for longer periods. Like a husband or wife you've live with for many years; or perhaps children or parents living in your home. Instead of having these loved ones explain their positions on certain issues or decisions, the deaf ear gets turned to them when they speak. This can become habit forming and lead to non-communication or an end to the relationship altogether.

So the question for this week's lesson is "ARE YOU REALLY LISTENING" to what's important to those you verbally communicate with? It's a very important question to ponder, because some slight adjustments in your listening habits can contribute enormously to the success of your relationships. Starting today, become more interested in the needs of others and let them finish explaining themselves before you begin speaking. You will learn a lot about others and help to nurture more meaningful relationships that can last a lifetime.

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