“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Bryant H. McGill
After talking with a peer about her business, I asked her if our conversation had been valuable to her. I was surprised by her response.
She replied, I listened to understand her. As a result, I was able to guide her in a positive direction.
I was surprised by her response because it’s what I do naturally. It’s a skill that I’ve worked on for over forty years for several reasons. One, it’s been drilled in my head as a salesperson always to be listening to your customer. Two, as a mother of a child who is intellectually disabled, I’m listening to read between the lines.
My son is described as high functioning, but he doesn’t always use the appropriate words in conversation. I’m listening to understand his meaning, what is he really saying to me.
Here’s the thing, everybody who has a customer-facing role needs to be listening. We all know it, but why is it so hard?
Why do you have a hard time listening?
You aren’t interested in what they have to say. Let’s face it; sometimes we get bored with the surrounding conversations. We’re busy multitasking on our cellphones, reading emails, or just plain daydreaming when we should be listening.
I’ve been challenged to pay attention to a few group Zoom calls. I’m half-listening for something interesting. The reason, it isn’t a priority. It’s not like there will be a quiz at the end. I find myself touching base from time to time while I zone out to think about other pressing issues. Then I mentally come back to see what’s going on.
What about you? Do you know when you’re not listening?
The signs you’re not listening
- You start thinking about your email
- Looking at your phone for something interesting
- Wondering why you’re in this situation
- You don’t hear what’s being said
- Want to you check social media for anything new
- You just remembered something you need at the store
The truth is everything isn’t life or death, but there are times we need to be a better listener. When we do try harder let’s get something of value out of the exchange.
What are they really communicating?
In every conversation, there is what is being said and what they mean. Evaluate everything that you hear. Don’t take what they are telling you for granted. Because there is something, they aren’t telling you?
Never assume you know what they’re thinking or feeling.
Even if you’re talking to a good friend who is telling you a story with twists and turns, you want every nugget. Don’t leave out the details; tell me more.
Ask for more. More, please.
People appreciate the opportunity to expand on the point they’re making. Ask a follow-up question. Something like, tell me more about that. Even when you think you have a complete understanding of what they’re telling you, there is usually another crumb or two that are treasures.
If this is your coaching client, you are building a foundation of trust. If this is a potential client, you’ll know where the landmines are located.
If you’re negotiating a sale, you’ll know what the client values. People are often guided by their values and understanding them has advantages. These strategies are not for manipulation.
There are many books about listening and negotiating, but one of my favorites is by Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference, Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.
Chris was an international hostage negotiator for the FBI. He knows how important it is to be listening – when lives are at stake. Chances are you won’t have that heavy burden, but it might feel like it at times.
Chris makes the point that we’re negotiating all.the.time. In every encounter, there’s a negotiation, even when you don’t expect it. What do you want for dinner, where should we go for dinner, what movie do you want to see, and you get the picture? Even when it isn’t crucial to you – there’s a negotiation.
Listening helps you understand the other person and accept them. It doesn’t matter if you’re a loner, introvert, or extrovert; we all want to feel safe and secure. Being accepted is essential. Being understood and accepted validates who you are. It also gives us a sense of control.
Along with control comes certainty. People crave certainty; it’s one of our values. We are comforted knowing that when you work, you get paid. The sun will come up tomorrow, if you live in Florida.
Listening intensely demonstrates your sincere interest in others. You’re building the bridge that brings you closer to the other person. You’ll uncover what they need and how you can deliver it.
Naturally, you’re excited that you understand them because they’ve told you what they want. It feels great knowing that you’ve got this. You want to start sharing how you can do x,y, and z for them – but don’t do it.
If you jump into your process now, you’ll lose them. You haven’t uncovered the real gold.
Continue to focus on what is important to them. What happens to them when they get their solution/the desired result?
Let them feel their transformation for a bit. If you’ve ever been on a car test drive, this is where you’re smelling the new car smell—enjoying the feeling of a new car with all the shiny buttons and gadgets. You love the memory so much that you don’t want to let go.
This is negotiations at their finest. Once they feel themselves loving this new worldview, they’re ready for your close.
It can be as easy as; what do you think we should do next?
The Next Steps
Listening is the magic in all you do. Listening to understand is the respect you share with others. They say that your eyes are the window to your soul, but I think it’s listening. When you are accepted by the people who are important to you, life doesn’t get any better. You know that you can do and be whoever you want because you’re not alone.
Get the Chris Voss book; you’ll appreciate all those times when you were outmaneuvered and how you can take control of your life.
Commit to listening actively and intently. You will develop better relationships with clients, friends, and those you care about. Listening is what I do for you when I write and help you grow your business.
If you'd like to chat about your next project, reach out at Linda@shinyobjectmarketing.com
Linda James Bennett; day 33 of 365 writing an article every day, making you a shiny object in the world.