Listening skills are so underrated.
I’ve learned a lot of useful stuff over the last few years. I used to dominate the conversation, I would interrupt because I was desperate to say what came into my head before I forgot, I used to talk too much and I would forget to ask people questions and wait to really listen to their answers. It meant that people didn’t really enjoy spending time with me. I wouldn’t have enjoyed spending time with me if I had met me.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I really listening?”
I bet you have personal, first hand experience of meeting someone new and they monopolise the conversation. They either want to tell you their life story or everything about their amazing new opportunity and they forget to ask you any questions, or to listen to any answers if they did ask you a question. It can be very draining. I bet you’d avoid them if you saw them again….?
I’ve been in many situations in networking recently where I feel like I’ve been grilled, it’s like the other person has 50 questions they needed me to answer before I was allowed a chance to ask them about themselves, and have, you know, a conversation! I feel violated and exhausted, and it doesn’t make me feel valued and accepted.
I don’t know if that’s nervousness on their part, or a way to control the situation, or a way of filtering out people who are useful/useless to them. Whatever the reason, it still leaves me feeling a bit cheated and disrespected. Another person that I’d probably avoid if I saw them again.
Don’t you feel great when you feel listened to?
There’s something lovely about having a real conversation, that gentle to and fro, your turn, my turn, sharing of anecdotal stories, the asking of a question and a listening to the answer, and asking a follow up question based on and directly related to the answer. This is building rapport, a relationship and getting to know someone.
People buy people remember; and even if the person in your conversation isn’t someone you will find yourself working with in the future, you might meet someone else who could use their products or services and with your hand on your heart you will be able to recommend them based on the relationship you built in your conversation.
The other kind of listening that is often missed is looking out for details; names, dates, places, anything that you can repeat back to the other person so they know you really were listening. There’s a technique I use where I repeat what the other person is saying in my head almost like I’m talking at the same time, but it’s a discipline that helps me to block out the rest of the room. Its especially helpful in noisy networking situations when it can be hard to hear clearly or for a sustained amount of time.
What’s your listening technique?
Once out of the meeting, make some notes whilst the info is fresh in your mind about the people you have met. How good will that person, that you just met briefly, feel, if you remember they said their child was going to win an award or they had achieved a big contract, and you ask them how that’s going. They will feel really respected that you bothered to remember. It’s one of the key techniques employed by top charismatic and charming leaders who are extremely successful.
So, don’t be that other person in the conversation that interrogates or won’t take turns; relax, enjoy the dialogue, listen to the way they speak and words they use. Be genuinely interested and offer relevant information. Listen out for an accent, unusual turns of phrase, silently acknowledge if you think they are confident, or shy, or if you think they are just starting out or dab hands, you can modify your language accordingly, (but don’t make assumptions).
It is within you to give the gift of respect and listening.
They might also use similar words in their dialogue like “Do you see what I mean” “Let me paint you a picture” or feel the need to grab a pen to illustrate their point. Chances are that this is a good indication they will respond to dialogue from you with similar visual references, and you know they will love to see some slides if you are presenting to them. They might also be influenced by how you dress. On a similar note, auditory and kinaesthetic people will use different dialogue which will help you understand how to connect with them on an emotional and personal level. I’ll be doing another blog covering this whole subject soon.
When communicating at home, often the TV or computer will get in the way of communication. It’s useful to say the person’s name and wait for them to acknowledge you before diving in, so that you know you have their full attention. “Dave, can I ask you something?”, I wait……….. he pauses TV, looks at me “Go on then, yes”. Now I know he’s listening and not distracted I can deliver my question or message. If I tried to speak whilst he was in full flow (watching TV for instance) he would not be able to listen to me, or respond to me. There’s no point getting huffy with someone for not listening if you didn’t give them time to connect with you, and be receptive.
If you know someone else that dominates conversations perhaps you could give them some kind and supportive feedback to help them understand their impact on others. I’ll cover giving and receiving feedback in a future blog.
Remember to ask yourself occasionally “Am I really listening?”
Hope you find this info useful.
Remember – communication isn’t optional. http://www.get-your-message-across.com