Are you listening?

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not being heard? It happened to me last week in a meeting with a potential supplier. I was discussing my needs but only being heard on a very superficial level, if at all. As a result what I was being offered was not what I needed and at times I felt talked down to. The problem was that my contact was not really listening.

Last night Ruth Whiteley was fired from The Apprentice largely because she talked too much. She didn’t sell because she was too busy talking and didn’t give her prospects chance to think or act. There’s a pattern here. The sad thing is that Ruth Whiteley is a sales trainer and my conversation was with a coach. Both should know that listening effectively is the most vital skill.

Listening is a vital component of selling

We learn when we listen

These days we’re all too busy trying to get our message out there. All too often we’re broadcasting rather than communicating. Be different. Stop and listen. Listen to the words as well as the music. Listen to what is being said, what is being withheld and what the speaker can’t find the words for. Ask questions to help the speaker to communicate with clarity, use encouraging body language and above all stop talking!

Effective listening leads to understanding, helps us to spot opportunities and creates empathy. Next time you’re having a conversation or in a meeting just be mindful of how much information you are really taking in. Are you fully engaged in listening or too busy thinking what to have for dinner, how to respond or making a judgment? I could go on but I want to hear what you think. Do you ever find yourself speaking because silence is uncomfortable? Have you been frustrated at not being heard?

Listening, a lost skill?

Everyday we are bombarded with sound. My kids can barely leave the house without listening to their i-pods. I wake each day to the BBC’s Today programme. I shut out the noise of tube trains, cars and planes because they are so constant where I live in West London. As I type this the house is remarkably quiet so I can hear the gentle whir of the computer fan and the quiet tick of the clock on the mantlepiece, sounds I would probably not be conscious of if I wasn’t writing a piece on listening.

Most of us are very bad at listening. We need to be better. Listening effectively to our customers will allow us to meet their needs better; listening consciously to our staff is likely to lead to a more motivated workforce; listening to our families will build better relationships.

I can’t put it better than Julian Treasure in this TED talk, so I won’t try. Why not watch it and take the action that Julian recommends? I’d love to hear how your business and life in general benefits.

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