"The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention." – Rachel Naomi Remen
Recently, my family attended a 90th birthday party for my husband’s mother. Over 100 family members and another 100 friends turned out to honor Grandma Hendrickson and thank her for a life well lived.
More than once, I heard people say, “She always makes me feel important when I’m with her.” When I asked them how, the response was invariably, “She listens to me.”
In this fast-paced, multi-media, multi-tasking world, are people losing the ability to listen? And, how can you help to reverse the trend?
Listening well is the key to effective communication.
It doesn’t matter how fascinating or helpful or important a message may be, if no one hears it.
When people fail to listen well, they miss vital info, misinterpret messages, or even damage their relationships with the messengers. At the least, they waste valuable time and energy.
Conversely, when you practice the art of good listening, your friends, family members, and colleagues feel “heard.” They feel appreciated and respected. You and they can make decisions more quickly and with less “wear and tear” on the relationship.
What gets in the way of effective listening?
Multi-tasking is often the culprit.
Have you ever taken a phone call while checking email or browsing the web? Or checked your smart phone while having a face-to-face conversation? Have you ever been talking to someone else when they did either of those things?
I’m willing to bet it bugged you. The quality of your interaction suffered. The truth is, it’s easy to get distracted by technology, other people, or even your own thoughts.
Even when not obviously distracted, people inadvertently send non-verbal signals that they’re not listening.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who slouched or who had a disinterested posture? How about someone who seemed to be completely unaware of his or her facial expressions?
It's very common (even understandable in high-stress situations) for people to wait for a break in the conversation, so they can jump in with their own point of view, rather than really “listening” to what is being said.
Has anyone ever talked over you, interrupted you, or (heaven forbid!) tried to finish your sentences for you? Could it be that even you may be guilty of some of these blunders? You’re human, after all.
Guilty as charged. How do I improve my own listening skills?
Take some lessons from Grandma Hendrickson. When listening, make that your sole task.
- Remove distractions.
- Focus your attention on the person speaking.
- Sit (or stand) up straight and look interested.
- Maintain an appropriate amount of eye contact. Nod and smile as appropriate.
- Be deeply curious about what the person speaking has to say.
- Demonstrate your interest by asking relevant questions, to gain deeper understanding.
- Take note of key points. Link to what you hear.
- Summarize occasionally to make sure you’re capturing important information.
- Pay attention to the non-verbal signals. Notice any discrepancies between what the other person is saying and the message they’re sending with their body language.
- Create a safe environment for communication by having an open mind.
- Seek to understand the other person’s opinion before sharing your own.
Bottom line: Just say less!
Few authors are more frequently misquoted than Mark Twain. One of my personal favorites, often misattributed to him (but actually a concept first expressed by Greek philosopher Epictetus), is this: “If we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.”
For the next week, take up the challenge of saying less. Try it. Focus intently on the people around you. Pause, listen, and ask questions.
I’m confident that deep and continual practice of the gracious art of listening will not only improve your communications with others, but also strengthen your relationships with them — and make you as valued a person as our beloved Grandma Hendrickson.
Sales professionals need a mix of soft skills to be successful. While rapport building is often considered the top sales skill, listening is the most critical skill for closing sales, and building long-term client relationships.
Learn 3 crucial tips to closing sales, and why listening is the top sales skill of 2021.
Gratitude. Appreciation. Recognition. It makes you feel good. This week in the US, many will pause for a day or two to give thanks and show appreciation for the things and people we care about most. It’s no secret how appreciation benefits the person getting it—but did you know it benefits the person giving it just as much?
Discover why recognition is such a powerful tool for improving relationships and wellbeing in life—and at work. Learn how to (and how NOT to) express your appreciation to others.
People in communities across the globe are adjusting to communicating while wearing masks. As we’re all experiencing, masks present both verbal and non-verbal communication challenges.Given this, we’ve prepared 5 tips for effective communications while wearing a mask, and compiled several insightful articles from leading publications on additional best practices.
Learn Mandel’s 3-step model for skillfully responding — not reacting — to tough questions with confidence and ease.
Admittedly, I've struggled to find a reliable way to help people reduce their public speaking anxiety, despite years of trying. I’ve advised people to do just about anything I could think of that might help, e.g., breathing, meditation. While I haven't found the thing that works every time for every person, there is one technique that seems to be more effective than most. Even if you've already found something that works well for you, this technique is worth trying out.
Executive briefings. Big sales meetings. Project pitch meetings. What do they have in common? The stakes are sky high. There’s a lot riding on them for you and your company — revenue, reputation, productivity. Do your people have, both, the presentation AND facilitation skills to ensure their success?
Read the blog to find out and to get your free Discussion Leader Self-Assessment Tool and Facilitator Checklist.
How do you feel about building rapport? Many introverts feel uncomfortable when it comes to rapport-building because they think it means having to make “small talk” with others. If that’s you, fear not. You don't need the gift of gab to build good rapport. And having the gift of gab (or being extroverted) doesn't guarantee success either — especially if you're the one doing most of the talking.
Read the blog to get specific rapport-building tips anyone can use to quickly make a strong connection with others.
Have you ever encountered an unfriendly meeting participant while presenting? Maybe you know someone who constantly interrupts, asks aggressive questions, or worse, tries to take over your meeting. Believe it or not, you have more control over these conference room bullies than you think.
Learn how to recognize these strong personalities, the things you may be doing to trigger their behavior, and what you can do right now to strengthen your command of the room and feel more confident in front of any audience.
Listening is the most important communication skill. Why? Because nothing kills relationships or productivity faster than NOT listening. Communication barriers, like poor active listening, cost the average organization a staggering $62.4 million a year. Want to improve your team's listening skills? Want to become a better active listener yourself? Use these 4 steps to become a better active listener and start having more productive conversations with your colleagues and customers.
Ever wonder how the best speakers fully engage their audience while looking natural and at ease? It starts with expanding your presentation comfort zone and seeing yourself objectively. Video recording, coupled with expert coaching, can take your communication skills to the next level. Find out how the experts do it.
What’s the secret to wildly productive first-time sales meetings or conversations with executives? Thought-provoking questions. Read the blog to find out why—and how to tell if YOUR questions are thought-provoking enough to make customers want to learn more.
- Leading a Virtual Team Means Doing Things Differently
- Are You Really Listening?
- 4 Listening Tips for Improving Your Virtual Meetings
- The Irresistible Power of Stories in Virtual Selling
- The Top Sales Skill for 2021!
- Top Virtual Communication Mistakes – and How to Overcome Them in 2021!
- Tell a Story. Close a Deal. Even on Zoom.
- Throwback: Why Appreciation Matters in Life and at Work
- Tips for Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask
- Five Tips From a Virtual Meeting Producer