Are You Actively Listening With Focus?

 In Develop & Coach

Are You Actively Listening?

“No Way!…I’m not paying for that! It’s not what I wanted — did you even listen to me when I was telling you what I want?”

Ever have a customer say that to you when you were supposed to be providing great service? Are you actively listening? Perhaps you are just listening. How do you know the difference?

Q: I’m trying to figure out why I can’t seem to get on the same page as some of my customers. They tell me something and I think I understand what’s expected, but I always seem to be a little off the mark. I usually save the situation, but what a waste of time! What can I do to make sure I’m really getting what the customer’s telling me?

A: Time for some soul searching, my friend. Are you actively listening? Did you know that actively listening is one of the truly most important skills that you can develop if you want to be successful in any venture you take on, including career advancement? And the good news is– it can be developed. Of course, like any other skill, practice and conscious effort make all the difference.

Are you actively listening? — What do others think?

So let’s just say, for discussions’ sake, that you’re ready and willing to put the effort into developing your listening skills. Where oh where do you begin? First, think about how you might be perceived by others. I know that may seem like it’s not related, but trust me and stick with me. Ask yourself if you come across to others or have openly been accused of being:

  • Arrogant
  • Defensive
  • Don’t care
  • Don’t value others
  • Impatient
  • Insensitive
  • Too busy
  • You have selective hearing

These aren’t just casual accusations, most likely.

These are actually very real signs that you’re not a good listener.

Here are some other things to look for as signs of poor listening skills

When you’re interacting with your customers, or your manager, or your staff, or even your co-workers, do you:

  • Cut people off and finish their sentences if they hesitate
  • Interrupt to make a statement or give a solution or decision
  • Fail to learn much from interactions with others
  • Appear not to listen or are too busy trying to think up your own response
  • Often miss the point someone is trying to make
  • Listen to some groups or some people and not to others
  • You try to restate a point you think someone is making, but you’re not correct

Developing the skill of actively listening

Now that you feel raked over the coals, (sorry folks) let’s go over the techniques you can use to improve your listening abilities. You probably already know the usual things like:

  • Don’t interrupt
  • Listen for underlying meanings
  • Be accepting of other people views
  • And be able to paraphrase

Those are the easy and most commonly taught suggestions.

Here are 3 more things to practice and focus on when you’re having conversations

And remember, most of us need to learn how to actively listen when we really don’t want to. Are you actively listening when you want to, when you’re super interested or even when you really, really have to? You probably are because it is usually a lot easier to actively listen in those situations. The other important thing to keep in mind is that just because we actively listen to someone, doesn’t mean we accept or agree with them. It just means we are listening.

Tip 1:

Figure out why you’re not actively listening. Is it because you don’t know how? Doubtful. Is it because you don’t do it with anyone? Maybe. Is it because you listen really well with some people, a little bit with others and not at all with still more people? Ah ha! I bet that’s it. Are you actively listening to your mom, your best friend, your mentor, even the cops (well, hopefully!). So, your problem is this—you turn it on and off when you want to, even though it’s subconscious. So, FOCUS! Be deliberate and work on catching yourself when you start to drift off.

Tip 2:

If you’re having trouble understanding what you’re hearing, ask more questions. Great listeners ask tons of questions to make sure they get a good understanding. Make sure the questions you ask are probing and clarifying questions. Then, ask confirming questions such as “Is this what you’re saying?” If you struggle with this, try asking just one more question than you do now and each time, ask one more question. Eventually, it will feel more natural to you and people will know that you really are actively listening to them.

Tip 3:

Are you actively listening or are too busy judging instead? Hmmm, we all do that at times, but it’s not a good thing to do when someone is trying to explain something. Listen to people you don’t like. Pay attention and give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions. Ask yourself, what do other people who like them see in them? What are their strengths? Do you have any common interests? Talk less and ask more questions to give them a second chance. Don’t judge their motives and intentions—do that later.

Not sure if you really need to work on your listening skills? Ask someone you really trust what it is you do when they think you are not listening. Ask them to point it out to you next time they believe you are not actively listening and work on eliminating those behaviors. Practice is the key to success in beefing up your listening skills. Before you know it, you and your customers WILL be on the same page when it comes to understanding what they are expecting. You can do it!

Let me leave you with this quote from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States:

“No man has ever listened himself out of a job.”

So, are YOU actively listening? We ask you, what’s the worst situation you’ve found yourself in because you weren’t listening fully?

Come over to our Facebook page and tell us all about it and share the lesson you learned from that experience.

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