Talk Less to Listen More

If I had to choose my #1 Most Irritating Communication Habit it would be … not listening!

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You’ve enthusiastically shared a story or provided information; you finish and wait expectantly for reaction or input. Instead, when the person speaks, their words don’t connect at all with anything you’ve said. It’s as if they were participating in a completely different conversation. Makes me crazy!

Having said that, I’m sure I’ve done it myself. It takes focus and presence to be a good listener. In fact it takes practice. But the benefits of great listening skills more than make up for the effort needed – both personally and professionally.

So how do we become better listeners? There are lots of strategies out there and I don’t profess to be an expert, but here are a few ideas that work for me:

1)     Talk less – if you are doing most of the talking, you aren’t doing much listening

2)     Stop thinking – we miss so much of what other people say because we are already thinking about what we’re going to say in reply

3)     Ask, don’t tell – instead of being focused on getting your opinions or experience or information heard, ask questions and encourage others to talk about themselves

4)     Don’t multi-task – nothing reduces our ability to hear more than doing something else at the same time. Remember the last time you had to ask someone to repeat themselves because you decided to finish an email while they were talking?

5)     Stay calm – emotion impacts with our ability to listen. I spent many years providing software support. It took a lot longer to help someone frustrated, angry or panicked than someone who was calm.

6)     It’s not about you – I seem to say this everyday but that’s because it’s true. When you focus on yourself, allow your ego to be the priority, you won’t hear a word someone else says.

What about you? What is your #1 Most Irritating Communication Habit? And what’s your best listening strategy?

One more tidbit – about powerful words on the telephone. This video, sent to me by Gwen Davies (thanks, Gwen) illustrates the power of the word “will” versus “should”. The video is just under 2.5 minutes and worth every second!

Happy dialing everyone!

0 thoughts on “Talk Less to Listen More”

  1. Mary Jane, I think you can comfortably complain about other’s listening skills because you’re such a good listener yourself – not just to the words but you’re always listening for the meaning behind them. I was a young manager in my early 30s when my poor listening skills first came up during a performance review. Various appraisals and personality profiles since have supported that. I’ve actually taken 2 courses in listening skills. After all that awareness and efforts to improve, I can say quite confidently that I’m a still not a good listener. BUT I’m better than I was at one time. Of your strategies above, #3 is what’s worked for me most. I’ve learned how important that is to making a successful sale!


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