We can all be better communicators. As sales and business professionals one of the keys to success is our ability to express our thoughts and ideas and to accurately understand those of others. While we seem to excel at getting our point across, many times we struggle to grasp the others persons’.
As Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”
If this is the case, you must improve your listening skills—and yes they are skills. They take practice, commitment and work.
Here are four areas to concentrate and improve upon:
It seems simple, but it’s surprising how many times we simply aren’t focused on the other person when they are talking. Whether we’re thinking of what we’re going to say next or just letting our mind drift—we aren’t present in the moment. Listening is an active activity not a passive one. Focus and really listen to the other party. Hear not just their words but their facial expressions, body language and non-verbal communication. Once you begin to actually, actively focus it will surprise you at how inactive you’ve been in the past.
Don’t Fake Understanding
Have you ever been talking to someone and they’re nodding and agreeing and you know they have no idea what you are talking about—or in some cases they aren’t even really listening. Don’t face understanding. If you aren’t 100% sure of what the person is saying, tell them. Get clarification. Don’t move on until you are both on the same page and you know what they are truly trying to convey. Faking it will do nothing but get you in trouble later.
When appropriate, take notes. Write down what the other person is telling you especially if it has to do with numbers, figures or dollar amounts you’ll need to be exact on at a later date. There is nothing wrong with taking notes—in fact, it lets the other person know you ARE listening and present in the moment. Also, don’t get so far ahead of yourself you can’t later read your own writing! Yes, I’ve been guilty of this one. I’ve tried to write so fast and take so many notes I ended up with a bunch of chicken scratch hieroglyphics which meant absolutely nothing to me. (I keep a small spiral bound pocket notebook with me at ALL times)
You’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating—or reconfirming. Once the other party has expressed their point or told you something, reconfirm what you heard and how you understood them.
“If I am understanding correctly, you want to purchase a blue model in the $5,000 prince range, is that right?”
Ask. Reconfirm. Make sure you are understanding what they’re saying because they may not be good at expressing their wants, needs or feelings.
There you go. Four tips to improve your listening skills.
Practice and you’ll be amazed at how much better you communicate when you understand the other person.