The art of effective listening, and its impact on your business
What do increasing profitability, better staff management and improved personal relationships all have in common?
They are all made possible by the simple act of effective listening.
Regardless of what business you are in, or what product or service you sell, at some point you will interact with people. How well you can communicate and engage with other people can make or break your business.
Potentially the most underrated aspect of communication is actually not saying anything at all. It is listening. Unfortunately, this is not something that earns someone great accolades. We frequently praise great orators, but not great listeners.
Why is listening so important?
When it comes to sales and engaging with our customers, the process would be much simpler and more lucrative, if we truly listened to what our customers were seeking, rather than pushing our ‘high quality, best value’ product onto them. They will tell us what they want; we just have to listen.
When it comes to working with others, it might be that conflict could be avoided, if we simply gave them the time and space to truly communicate what’s on their mind or what’s driving their actions.
This can be achieved more easily by being patient, engaged in what they are saying, and waiting for those gems to emerge.
Why is it so difficult?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand;
they listen with the intent to reply”
– Stephen R. Covey
Listening is not the same as hearing. We mistake it for being easy, because it seems simple and passive. I.e. if your mouth is shut while someone else is talking, that must mean you’re listening. In reality though, true listening requires significant focus and attention.
One of the major reasons effective listening is difficult, is that it is generally accepted we think three to four times faster than people speak. The result being that we get impatient and want to butt in with our thoughts, or our minds wander and we drift off.
Many people believe they are great listeners, but in reality they are just great at holding their tongue.
Some tips for effective listening
1. Don’t be afraid of ‘awkward’ silences
People process their thoughts in different ways. Some need to talk to think, others need to process things internally, form their thoughts, and then speak what is truly on their mind. Don’t rush or override this process.
2. Listen to understand, not to respond
Because of our ability to process thoughts faster than others can think, often we are already thinking through what we are going to say next, before the speaker has even finished. However in doing this, we might be missing the intent of what they are saying, and we have already filtered their thoughts through our own preconceived ideas.
3. Summarise and reiterate what you have just heard
Letting someone know that you have truly heard what they are saying is very powerful. They will feel more comfortable with you, be more trusting, and be more willing to say what is really on their minds. This is significant because in business, trust-based relationships are far more rewarding than a superficial transactional-based relationship. And, it will reinforce your own learnings about what you have just heard.
Are you interested in finding out more about effective communication and its value in running a business?
This is one of several topics covered in our Agri-Business By Design, 12 week business management programs running throughout QLD and NSW.