The Art of Effective Listening

You work with people, every business does. In fact there is not a single enterprise that does not depend on the contribution of people, but so few truly listen to their clients, their customers, the people they serve – the very people who keep them afloat.

So many people are concerned with their own outcome that they fail to hear the wants and needs of their audience. But were they to listen, the rewards would astound them.

It’s a bit of a paradigm, the more you focus on serving others with your business, the better your business gets.

Revenue, reviews, referrals, reputation – they all blow sky high (in a good way!)

But you’ve got to learn to listen. Not just to words but to emotional reactions as well. That kind of intuitive listening is what catapults you into the upper echelon of service providers.

Maybe you think you already listen well, or perhaps you know you could do better.

Either way, I encourage you to review your interactions over the next week or so and take note of the following things when speaking (or even emailing) with clients and potential clients.

Is your mind open, soft, and receptive? Or are you tense and focused on the myriad of potential outcomes of the conversation? Are you trying to manipulate the end game, or are you released from the results and fully present in the exchange? It is impossible to think about the future and listen in the present moment at the same time.

Are you breathing? Many times when we’re nervous or attached to the outcome of things we forget to breathe. The trouble with that is it’s impossible to listen openly if you’re depriving your body of oxygen. If you find your mind beginning to muddle, take a deep cleansing breath and refocus your attention. The conversation will flow and the answers will come more freely that way.

Do you rush to fill every silence? There is nothing wrong with silence in a conversation; in fact it’s a vital time to process thoughts. When you ask a question, do you allow space for the client to answer, or do you rush to explain the question further if the hollow seconds tick on too long?

When you rush an answer (even if your intention is to clarify) what you’re really saying is my idea of a proper response time is more important than yours. By giving someone time to process a question, you give them permission to be more honest. You’ll gain better insight if you hold space for their answer instead of caving into your own discomfort.

Have you practiced repeating back to your client pieces of what you’ve heard? For example, they express some concern. After they pause, you say, So I’m hearing that you’re concerned about the price of the program, is that correct? Listen. And then offer your response. Nothing makes a person feel heard more than having their words repeated back to them with an intent to understand. And you’ll gain great clarity from the repetition as well.

Are you responding or reacting? Reaction occurs when you’re thinking about what you’re going to say and have outlined the conversation and the anticipated outcome before the words have even been spoken. Responding is the act of listening, processing, and addressing what has been said in the moment.

At the end of the day, what they have to say is more important to the success of your business than what you have to say. Think about that for just a moment.

Really listening and hearing your clients not only makes you a better service professional for their specific solution, but it also gives you a keen understanding of how you can better serve others. You can’t gain insight to what people want or need if you don’t listen to what they’re saying.

Ears open, mouth (mostly) shut. Staying present. That’s the art of effective listening. And the benefits of practicing this life skill are never-ending.

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