You would think that listening is the easiest thing in the world. Provided you have two good working ears, all you need to do is sit back, relax and allow the information to come in.
This is what I used to believe, but I was wrong.
So how do you listen well?
- You lean in.
- You nod.
- You summarize back what was said to you.
- You mirror the other person’s body language.
- You say things like “I see,” “I understand.”
- You make eye contact.
Unfortunately, all of the above are tools for you to pretend that you listen well and try to trick the other person into thinking you are paying attention.
Listening is more of an internal affair than what you show externally.
Listening is so hard because of the noise in our heads. How can we genuinely make space and listen intently to the other person when the voice in our heads drives us crazy?
We may start with good intentions and an open heart, but sooner or later, something will happen that will start the chatter-box:
“Oh my God, this looks like a long story, and I haven’t had lunch yet!”
“Did I forget to turn the heater off? I hope I did not start a fire! need to make a mental note to call home.”
“Should I tell her she has something in her teeth?”
“What do you mean I didn’t tell you about this? I TOTALLY DID!”
“Oh, wait a minute… wait a minute… oh SHUT UP ALREADY so I can say something!”
“Oops… must do eye contact! And remember to nod! And… I have a meeting with the boss later on that worries me sick!”
Not listening properly greatly affects how we do business. We are so focused on talking, on proving that we know our business that we don’t stop and listen really hard. When you don’t listen, you are missing vital information that could help you craft a better custom solution or give you leverage in a negotiation with your clients.
“Contrary to popular opinion, listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do.” – Chris Voss
Listening well is a skill, so it is trainable. Start by noticing the noise in your head and make it a practice to now allow it to take away your attention. If your mind is too busy, show respect for you and your partner and let them know you cannot truly listen to what they have to say right now, rather than pretending that you care. Meditation or other mindfulness practice also helps.
We are human beings first and business people second. Listening well is a great way to honor this principle.