“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”
We’ve all been in meetings with clients, colleagues or vendors where everyone seems to be talking and no one is listening. Often, it’s a case of who can communicate the loudest or have the last word.
If we would just stop talking and start listening more, we would have the benefit of developing a deeper connection with whomever we are talking with – which is especially important if it’s a client. By listening – we will demonstrate that we think the person who is talking and what they are saying is important. We are showing that we want to hear what they have to say. And if we are talking with a client – it’s always important to hear what they have to say! Let’s face it – we all like to be heard and client’s should be heard. As an agency partner it’s incumbent on our side of the fence to ensure that we are always actively listening.
Below are 5 tips to improve your listening skills. Practice them and see how much more you learn and how much more effective you become as an agency partner and team member.
- Be in the moment: When someone is talking – stop working on your laptop, doodling on your notepad or looking out the window. Look at the person speaking; turn your body to her and be in the room with her. Look her in the eye and follow along with her body movement. That’s not to say that you have to be unnatural and constantly stare at her – but physically be engaged.
- Show empathy: If what the speaker is say is surprising, sad or funny – reflect that emotion. Laugh. Be somber – reflect the mood of the speaker. This will keep you engaged and show that you are with the person who is talking.
- Don’t be quick to judge: Don’t assume that you already know everything that the person is going to say – or worse yet – don’t assume that what you have to say is more important. Be open to what the speaker is saying and process the information in the context of how this might impact what you are going to say. (Assuming you have something relevant to say that will add to the speakers topic.)
- Be patient: We’ve all been “listening” to someone – when we just can’t hold it in any more and we start telling our version of what the speaker is saying. In other words – we interrupt – so that we can say what we want to say. This shows basic disrespect to the speaker. A better approach would be to wait for a natural pause from the speaker and then ask for clarification on a topic or look for permission from whoever is speaking to re-direct any portion of the conversation.
- Take notes: To help stay focused – jot down notes on what is being communicated to you. You don’t have to write down everything that is being communicated – just key topics/ideas. This will keep you engaged and give you points to refer back to in any ongoing discussions.
At the end of the day – it’s important to remember that people like to be heard. If we spend all of our time talking and don’t sharpen our listening skills – we might lose the opportunity to engage in deeper discussions with our clients and colleagues.