16 Apr A Good Listener
A Good Listener
What a great compliment – “You’re a good listener.” If and when you hear it said, you can be sure that the other party to the conversation has felt valued and cared for. Frankly, I don’t hear (or deserve) that compliment enough – especially from those whom I most value. I resolve to do better.
Conducting FreshEyes® Reviews and PostMortem Audits™ for Tenacity has been good training, however, in bolstering our listening skills. Since, as a firm, Tenacity is approaching 2,000 of these, and clients continue to ask us to do them (and pay us for them), it stands to reason that we must have learned something useful along the way about effective listening.
As you recall – these assessments involve one of our consultants meeting face-to-face with each member of a client’s Web of Influence® to understand the key expectations and issues driving the relationship, assess risk, and benchmark execution of the foundational operating elements of the Clients for Life® client retention process. They are profoundly effective in surfacing and prioritizing pivotal information that our clients can (and do) use to enhance the relationship and protect their contracts.
Here are a few points worth considering:
“The opposite of talking is not listening. The opposite of talking is waiting to talk.” (Fran Lebowitz) Whenever we start to formulate a response to what another has said, our ability to listen is degraded. In most business scenarios – and personal ones too for that matter – the more the other person speaks the better the outcome is likely to be. That may sound counterintuitive, but the ability to actively listen without rationalizing, justifying or defending anything that may have happened provides the input we need to succeed and enriches the relationship. We call this “naive listening”.
“We see things not as they are – we see things as we are.” (Anais Ninn) This reality is a huge obstacle – not only to successful listening, but also to successful negotiating. We have to transform our orientation to place ourselves in the other person’s situation to really hear them and value their points of view.
Learn, practice and master the “blocking and tackling” of great communications skills. These include effective use of restatements, reflections, pauses and verbal and nonverbal invitations to continue, expand and go deeper.
“Lean in.” Not the Sheryl Sandberg book, but understanding the effect that your physical presence and posture can have in demonstrating your interest to the other person. Leaning in, while still respecting personal space, encourages the other party and enhances our own discipline to listen actively and intentionally.
Being a good listener is hard – not as hard as golf – or trying to do your own taxes – but hard nonetheless. Ultimately though, listening is certainly one of the best things there is to be really really good at.
(Speaking of taxes – check out the letter that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attaches to his return each year. Many of us feel this way, I know I do.)
Hope they’re listening!
Steve & John