A common complaint clients have about their attorneys is, "I don't feel listened to." Even more seriously, spouses feel misunderstood due to poor listening, too often leading to divorce. Children feel unheard, leading to isolation and estrangement. People make bad decisions because they fail to listen to their own "inner voices."
If you could improve every dimension of your life by practicing a skill you already have, would you do it? Here are three areas in which you can improve your life through better listening, followed by some techniques to improve your listening.
Listen to yourself to make better decisions. A few years ago I worked with an executive in search of a new position. After a few months of active looking, he had two excellent offers. He thoroughly researched both organizations and completed his financial due diligence. He talked with me at length about both opportunities. Then Jeffrey did something unusual. He flew to his home state of Colorado, climbed into the mountains, got quiet and listened to himself. When he returned, he was completely comfortable with his decision and confident that he was accepting the offer that was right for him.
Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.
Listen to your loved ones to strengthen your family relationships. After a few coaching meetings about the value and power of effective listening, a client of mine said his wife noticed the change and deeply appreciated his improved communications. Similarly, a young man recently told me how much he's enjoying recent walks with his Dad. Without the distraction of a television, newspaper or cell phone, they just walk and talk and listen. With each conversation this husband and wife, this father and son become closer.
Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication.
Someone isn't listening.Emma Thompson
Listen to your prospects and clients to improve your sales and service. "Double your listening and double your sales," I've heard it said. How often have you been annoyed by someone who pitches his or her products or services without knowing anything about you and your needs? I can't guarantee you'll double your sales by doubling your listening, but I can tell you that sales requires trust and the larger or more important the purchase, the greater the need for trust. One of the best ways you can earn the trust of your prospects is to ask good questions and listen. Three of my clients have recently told me that last year was their best year ever.Neither they nor I attribute their improved sales fully to better listening, but in each case, improved listening played a role.
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.
Bryant H. McGill
Bryant H. McGill
With these three excellent reasons to improve your listening, let's look at some techniques:
- Stop talking. Yes, you need to stop talking and get quiet in order to listen.
- Don't try to multi-task; give your full attention to your partner.
- Pay attention to context and body language, as well as to the words you hear.
- Resist the urge to formulate your comeback while you're listening.
- Ask probing questions to gain greater understanding.
- Periodically repeat what you think you've heard, in order to confirm your understanding.
- Acknowledge what you've heard (note that acknowledgement doesn't require agreement).
- Act on what you've heard.
Acting on what you've heard is a critical step in listening, because it confirms that you've incorporated what you've heard. You can let your spouse know you've listened with a simple suggestion, "Let's go to that movie you said you'd like to see Saturday night." One of the many ways you can demonstrate listening to your clients and prospects is by working collaboratively to establish project benchmarks and goals, then referring back to those agreed-upon benchmarks and goals during your updates.
Listening will improve every dimension of your life!