Every now and then I feel the urge to write about listening. Yes, that great art, of not only listening but going the extra mile and hearing.
I know that I have done a column on this subject before, actually maybe about once a year. But it still needs to be brought up, maybe for your benefit or actually most of the time, for myself because this is always one of my problems. Often I get so enthusiastic when talking to someone that I end up talking too much, or interrupting the speaker, or talking over her. So, I guess this is a case of “teacher teach thyself.” But as I look around and attend Zoom meetings and now live meetings I am reminded over and over again that people, all of us, have to be constantly reminded of the importance of listening.
Here are some great tips I found in a new book called “10 Soft Skills of Highly Desirable People” by James Brudermyer (an excellent book by the way, I urge you all to read it).
Check out Mr. Brudermyer’s advice on listening with a few on my own comments added:
- Let the other person talk. Asking questions and then being quiet will encourage others to speak. I know being quiet can be hard to do and sometimes we are so enthused by what the person is saying that we want to jump in…but don’t. It will interrupt their train of thought. Other times to let that person talk and not interrupt: When she is about to give you the order. Or when he is in the middle of giving you a compliment.
- Refrain from interrupting, no matter how much you want to jump in and correct them or defend yourself. This is especially true when someone is giving you hell for something you or your company has done. Let them get it out. Let them blow off steam until they tire themselves out. They will respect you in the long run if you let them talk and take it like the man or the woman that you truly are.
- Steer clear of filling in words or blanks or finishing sentences for others. Get comfortable with silences. This will allow others to finish their sentences or find the appropriate word and build their rapport with you while gently prompting them to fill the silence with more information. This is perhaps the most important advice of all. In fact, an entire column could be written on the power of silence. And it is powerful. The person who can best handle the sounds of silence (and they are very loud indeed) is the person who wins the upper hand in the end. I once sat in silence for five minutes (it felt like five hours) across the desk from a buyer who with pen and contract in front of him was deciding whether or not he was going to sign the contract for a multi-million dollar PCB order after I had finished my pitch and handed him a brand new gold Cross pen to sign the contract with. After what seemed hours, he gave a sigh, looked at me and smiled wryly and said “You B*st**d and signed the contract.
- To really concentrate on what another person is saying, we not only have to suspend our judgment but also postpone thinking about what we are going to say next. When we’re focusing on our responses, we can’t listen fully. If you really don’t want to forget something, write it down, and you can come back to it later when you have more information. This is something we all do and it’s very obvious to the speaker when we are doing it. We are so focused on what to say next that we have stopped listening. Often we will miss the answer to the very question we are going to ask when there is a pause in the conversation.
- Pay attention to non-verbal signals the other person is displaying. This includes eye contact, facial expressions, body language, and how their voice sounds – if it is raised in pitch, lowered, or raised volume, or quivering, for example. This enables us to strategically read between the lines. When you look at the person speaking, when you look that person in the eye and nod every so often it gives them the non-verbal indication that you are indeed paying attention.
So, listen up, pay attention, focus on hearing what the speaker is actually saying and concentrate also on how she is saying these things and you will become an excellent listener and heaven knows we could use many more great listeners. It’s only common sense.