You’ve probably heard the adage that in ‘having 2 ears and 1 mouth, we should listen twice as much as we speak’. Some coaches think about the last 3 letters of the word listen and believe the balance is listen TEN times more than we speak. Either way, the value of listening cannot but overestimated.
Although this is a fairly glib comment, there is a practicality in listening that makes it an important practise for consultants, coaches and business people alike.
Firstly, you already know what is going on in your head, so finding out what is in the heads of other people is probably going to be of interest.
Secondly, there is a level of rapport you gain for the act of listening. People will generally consider you a good conversationalist and a nice person if you listen to what they are saying.
Thirdly, as a consultant, coach or business person, you are more likely to be of more value to you customer if you fully understand their ideas, needs and concerns.
The best way to listen is not to be just attentive, or to be planning what to say next when it is your turn to speak, but to be truly active in your listening. Active listening is the process of applying effort and focus to really understanding what is being said and how it is being said.
There are a number of tips that can be used to improve your ability to listen actively:
• Keep an open mind – Minds are like parachutes, they only work when they’re open! When listening to someone, fight the need to have an argument or response ready. Be truly open to the ideas coming at you. Having an open mind means that the least you might gain is an understanding of the issues that concern the speaker and you might even gain a different perspective which is of value to you too.
• Maintain eye contact – You will demonstrate that you are fully engaged with the speaker. You can also use the eye accessing cues (an NLP technique) you see to help you understand the speaker at a deeper level.
• Watch your body language and that of your speaker – only 7 % of communication is carried in the words selected. 38% is from tone and a massive 55% is conveyed in body language. To miss this rich source of information is a wasted opportunity.
• Listen for key ideas and ensure you establish and understand the point fully. This is after all why you are listening.
• Ask questions – If you don’t understand the point fully, ask questions to gain understanding. If you understand the point, ask questions to show you are listening and extend and deepen the conversation.
• Para phrase and parrot phrase – by paraphrasing you can demonstrate your understanding, by parrot phrase or repeating the exact words, you can establish in the mind of the speaker that you truly are of the same mind. Using a speaker’s words lights up their neurology and they are naturally more engaged with you because of it.
Have these ideas in mind before you next sit and talk with someone. Using these tips will become habit and soon form a great new behavioural pattern that will lead to benefits in all of your conversations.
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