Communication skills

Listening tips: How to be a better listener

- February 27, 2011 2 MIN READ

Listening is ranked as one of the most important skills in business. It’s particularly important in sales, when you want to understand just what your clients want or need.

Be aware of your own internal dialogue

Even though you may not be aware of it, there’s a lot going on in your brain when you’re supposed to be listening to someone.

For starters you’ll have already instantly formed your own perceptions about the speaker, and perhaps more importantly about what they’re saying, almost before they’ve opened their mouth.

You also unconsciously project yourself, your thoughts, your expectations and your beliefs onto the poor unsuspecting speaker.

This can be problematic if it means that what you hear isn’t what your client says, but instead what you anticipate, expect or believe.

For example, how many times have you convinced yourself that a potential customer you’re about to sell to won’t buy, before you’ve even started pitching to them?

Put yourself in their shoes

To avoid just getting a projection of yourself back from your client, make a conscious decision to step out of your shoes and into theirs before you start the communication process.

Consciously decide to listen. To them. Not to what you want or expect to hear.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  communication skills section.

Use your eyes as well as your ears

While you’re consciously listening, observe the speaker too.

If you really want to get to know someone, it’s vital to build rapport, and you can do this by looking for what lies behind their dialogue.

How many times have you suspected there was more behind the words than met the ears, and how many times have you felt that you could have done with more information from a client to service them better? If you really observe someone, you’ll notice some physiological clues that may indicate that there’s more to know.

Some people gesticulate or wave their hands about, but even if someone is remarkably still when they communicate, there will still be unconscious physiological signs that you can pick up if you really look for them.

Their skin colour and tone may shift to a lighter or a darker one. The pupils of their eyes may constrict or dilate. Their breathing may quicken or slow down. Many times these changes occur in seconds, but if you get a glimpse of them, it may mean you need to listen more deeply.

You can do this by asking open questions such as ‘What are your thoughts on this?’ or ‘How do you feel about that?’

Have you ever walked away from a conversation knowing deep down that you’d missed some key information? Do you have any useful listening tips to share?