Tag Archives: how to listen better

No One Ever Listened Themselves Out of a Job

listen2Following-up on our previous post about the power of questions, it only seemed right that we address the other ‘half’ of the probing equation: LISTENING.

In an earlier post we shared some facts about listening; and as you may know, most communication experts consider it to be the most important communication skill. Unfortunately, listening also tends to be the communication skill at which most of us are the least proficient.

A well-known quote from Calvin Coolidge exemplifying this perspective: “No man ever listened himself out of a job!”

If we’re able to enhance our probing skills and, as a result, ask better questions during sales calls or important meetings, it is important that we effectively listen to the answers to those questions.

Here are three best practices for improving our ability to listen:

  1. Prepare for sales calls or important meetings in writing. As noted in the previous post referenced above, is best to put an equal amount of focus on what we will “say” as well as what we will “ask” when preparing ourselves. However, one of the key benefits of preparing ourselves in this fashion (in writing) is that it eliminates the biggest obstacle to good listening – that being the distraction associated with thinking about what WE will say or ask next while others are speaking. If we’re distracted in this way, we cannot listen effectively.
  2. Set a desired TALK / LISTEN ratio as part of the pre-call or pre-meeting plan outlined in item #1. Most people agree that they communicate differently (and more effectively) when they have given themselves a target to “only talk 40%” or to “listen at least 70%” of the time during interactions with others.
  3. Take notes during sales calls and meetings – and to be clear, these notes are not the same as meeting minutes, as the intent is to capture highlights rather than everything that is said.  Wondering why? Well, note-taking helps us to maintain a stronger focus on what others are saying because it keeps our mind from wandering. It also turns our listening into a multi-sense activity (i.e., we listen with our ears, our sense of touch and our eyes).


The Most Important Communication Skill?

listeningWhat do you consider the most important communication skill?

It’s common for people to think of communication in terms of speaking, as in the “gift” of gab. But experts and researchers agree that listening is the most important communication skill. It’s also the most frequently used communication skill.

For example, a typical study points out that many of us spend 70 to 80 percent of our waking hours communicating; but, of that time, we spend about 9% writing, 16% reading, 30% speaking, and 45% listening.

Unfortunately, studies also confirm that most of us are poor and inefficient listeners.

Here are a few interesting facts about listening challenges, and three things that can improve listening effectiveness.

The first challenge lies in the fact that, on average, thought speed exceeds average speaking speed by three to four times! Thus, due to excess “thought” capacity, our minds tend to wander when we (try to) listen to other people speak.

In addition, there are minimal opportunities for training. Most people will acknowledge they have had much more formal training in other communication skills (writing, reading, speaking) and also find it more difficult to find programs that might help improve listening.

Numerous tests also confirm that we are inefficient listeners. Studies show that immediately after listening to a 10-minute oral presentation, the average listener has heard, understood and retained only 50% of what was said. Within 48 hours, that drops off another 50% to a final level of 25% efficiency. In other words, we tend to comprehend and retain only one fourth of what we hear!

Finally, various forms of distraction inhibit our ability to listen effectively; and on top of this list of distractions is the tendency to shift our focus away from what others are saying because we are instead focusing on what we will say or ask next.

If you’d like to improve your listening skills, here are three ideas based on research conducted locally and at the University of Missouri:

  1. Prepare… Preparation prior to interacting with others is a good way to reduce distraction during communication. If we are less focused on what we will say or ask next (because we’ve planned ahead, in writing), we are able to place more focus on what others are saying.
  2. Ask better questions… Anticipating what others might say, making mental “summaries” while they are speaking and asking good questions to clarify what has been said will enhance our ability to listen and comprehend.
  3. Take notes… Note-taking can improve our listening in several ways. First it uses-up some of the excess thinking capacity described above. The act of writing or noting portions of what has been said also improves our memory of the material as it turns our listening into a “multi-sense” activity.  Finally, many people confuse listening with having a good memory… so if we take notes we can also refer to them later if (when!) we forget some of what was said.


I Heard, But I Didn’t Listen!

Research data indicates that “listening” is the most important communication skill, and that it is also the most frequently-used communication skill.

Unfortunately, it’s also the one at which most of us are the least efficient.

To improve our skills, it might be wise to first recognize a few often-forgotten truths about listening (see link below) and then determine how we might best go about improving our listening abilities… which will result in many additional positive outcomes.

For example, sales people who improve their ability to listen are likely to find they are suddenly able to more accurately assess customers’ needs. Sales managers who improve their ability to listen are likely to find they are suddenly able to motivate their teams more effectively.

Here’s a link to the full article along with 10 listening skill-builders from which you can choose the one (s) that are right for you:

Read full article…