By Adrian Swinscoe

Are you listening?

This article is about improving and growing all parts of our businesses by listening.

One of the biggest challenges in relationships, whether in teams, business, sales, social, family or personal, is that we don’t listen as much as we should. Listening is different to hearing. Hearing is something that we do with our ears whilst listening is something that we do with our brains. More often or not, people who don’t listen don’t do so because they have poor hearing. They don't listen because their brain is not truly engaged in what they are doing or the conversation that they are having currently.

There are many things that contribute to us not listening as much as we should or would like to. Here’s a few that occurred to me that can get in the way:

- Getting distracted by what is going on around you

- The signals you are getting from the other person’s body language

- Any relationship history you might have with that person, including unresolved issues

- You’re just not interested in the subject

- They’re talking too fast or in too much detail

- The words they use (vocabulary) and how they talk

- Personal unresolved issues with either person in the conversation

- Personal prejudices or judgments of either party

- Different personality styles or approaches

Can you think of any others?

Any, or all of these can get in the way of a person getting or understanding your message or you understanding theirs. The way to tell whether you or they are listening or not is to take a moment to observe your own and the other person’s body language while you’re talking. Don’t try and get too analytical with all this. Go with what you are ‘feeling’ and it should tell you, whether she’s listening to you or not and vice versa.

Clinton: A great listener

Bill Clinton has often been described as one of the greatest listeners of modern times. In the book Primary Colours by Anonymous (later revealed to be Joe Klein), the author describes Bill Clinton’s great listening ability, the way he looks into a person’s eyes, leans in, etc. He calls it putting on the big ears. It’s a great way to describe what he does as he goes into ‘listening’ mode. The key here is that he makes a decision to listen and then does it completely.

Now, I’m not saying that we should all turn into Bill Clinton and, I know, it’s very easy to get caught up in our own stuff on a day-to-day basis and skip listening as a key skill as it takes time and effort. But, taking a little time and effort and applying this to yourself and your business is a guaranteed way to connect more with your customers, improve your sales, team performance, leadership and overall business growth.

Things I learnt that have helped me become a better listener

I think all of us can be better listeners. Here’s a few tips that have helped me work on my listening skills:

- Stay focused on the other person and listen

- Don’t assume that you know where the conversation is going and don’t jump in

- Suspend your own agenda. Listening to them is about them after all

- Focus on what are the key points and messages

- Control distractions. Make a point of turning off your phone or closing your laptop

- Stay in the present

- Make lots of eye contact, and contribute from time to time with, as little as, “I see,” or “Really,” etc. It shows that you are paying attention

I’ve found that working on my listening skills has had a tremendous, and positive impact, on all of my relationships, business and personal. I’ve also found that listening to others is one of the greatest compliments you can pay them.

What’s worked for you?

Adrian Swinscoe is Director of RARE Business - adrian@rarebusiness.co.uk


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