How to Listen

LISTEN TO ME! I found myself screaming at someone the other day. It was amazing – everything I said to him seemed to steer him right back to what he wanted to talk about. I was simply the guy on the other end of their conversation. If I’d been replaced by someone else, he’d have said the same things. Like a two-way radio stuck on transmit only.

And they were trying to sell me something!

Yak Yak Yak.

Hysterically, this person finished my sentences for me, but in so doing revealed that he didn’t know what I was going to say…!

He probably thought he had the gift of the gab. He’s probably been told that. And thought it was a complement. The thing about the gift of the gab is it isn’t a gift. It’s a pain in the neck for those who have to listen to this type of market stall drivel.

So I screamed at him LISTEN TO ME. But I’m reasonably well behaved these days so I only screamed at him in my head. If he had listened to me, he might have made the sale. I actually wanted what he was selling. But I was not going to reward him – I’ll reward someone else who has similar stuff but actually listens.

So, how to listen?

It’s not that hard, but like everything else, you need to want to do it. You need to understand that really listening is the right way to behave, and not just when you’re selling.  No degree of discipline and technique-honing will make you a good listener if your real reason for doing it is as a sneaky tool to get what you want.

So, what to do?

Firstly, listen attentively without interrupting. Don’t finish people’s sentences for them. Maintain eye contact. They are trying to communicate with you, so let them do it.

Secondly, when they stop talking, pause before replying. Don’t just rush in. Don’t be afraid of a second or two of silence. And if you’ve been formulating your brilliant repost while they’ve been talking and are waiting for a microsecond’s break to launch your sparkling reply into the conversation like a cruise missile, go back to the first step.

Thirdly, seek clarification. “What do you mean by…?” “Explain that to me again…” Get their message: loud, clear and accurate.

Fourthly, play back what’s been said to you; allow the other person to correct you or confirm you’ve got it right.

That’s listening – attention, pause, clarify, repeat. It’s not linear, you can skip around.

Two things happen when you listen properly.

One – you actually understand better, which is calming.

Two – you’ve been respectful and they’ll like you for that. We all need to be understood. You will stand out as someone who seeks to understand.

As I said, you cannot do this as a manipulative technique, so if that’s where you are – don’t waste your time.

But if you do actually wish to understand your fellow human being as we career through this life…give these simple techniques a try. Take the time.

, , ,

One Response to How to Listen

  1. Robert Sloss October 5, 2010 at 8:10 am #

    Excellent blog! One of the things that really teaches you listening skills (and how hard it is) is learning languages. Just test the difference in your understanding of spoken and written French! Listening is much harder than transmitting and is a much more active process than people appreciate and is another skill that it is not tauight by our education process.

Leave a Reply