KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS Part One: Utilizing Active Listening

KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS Part One: Utilizing Active Listening

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Being a business owner or working in sales is demanding if you are looking for wild success.  The great news is, you can get really good at what you do. At the center of great success is great communication.  In this four part blog, we’ll talk about some components of great communication.

Active listening
One of the common downfalls of sales people and business owners is we aren’t always very good listeners.  You know – when you’re in a conversation and while the other person is talking, you’re already formulating what you’re going to say next.  The problem with that is, you aren’t doing your best to really understand what the other person is trying to say.  

Most people just aren’t great communicators.  Therefore, we have to be really good at getting down to the bottom of what people are trying to say to us.  If we aren’t using active listening, we have a big chance of not really getting to the heart of the matter.  

Seeking to Understand
When we are in a conversation, we have to get really good at seeking to understand what the other person is really trying to say.  There are some tactical ways to learn to do this well. First of all, don’t assume what the other person means by what they say. Get really good at asking questions – a lot of them – until you are really sure you understand.

You can use questions like:
Are you saying . . . ?
What I think you mean is . . . ?  Am I understanding you correctly?
Can you tell me more about that?

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you are helping someone buy a house and they say, “I want a 5 bedroom home.”

Seeking to understand by asking questions can really help.  You may ask the following question:

I hear you want a 5 bedroom home.  What will you use each of the rooms for?  I know you’ll have one of the bedrooms, of course, but what about the rest of them?

This question allows the client to describe the uses of each room.  You might discover that they really want 5 different spaces. Three of them as actual bedrooms, one space for an office and one for the kids to play.  Now, instead of just looking for a 5 bedroom home (which could restrict their choices), you can now show them:

3 bedrooms a den and a loft homes, 4 bedrooms and a den or 4 bedrooms and a loft and other variations that broaden their choices.  

The ability to ask good questions not only can make your job a lot easier, it also helps those you’re working with to feel understood and heard.  Those feelings translate into a feeling of receiving better service and also causes people to think more highly of your expertise and competence.  

Asking great questions is just one of the ways you can practice active listening.  Other skills to develop include:

Withholding judgement
You have to fight against the very human tendency of jumping to a conclusion before having enough information to decide if your conclusion is appropriate.  People jump to conclusions all the time.  

As an instructor, I had to learn to withhold judgement.  I would be delivering what I would consider a world class, amazing and invigorating performance with invaluable information and, by looking around the room, the faces of those watching would say otherwise.  (Yes, active listening and great communication includes non verbal communication. We’ll get to that in part 2)

I could jump to the conclusion that I’m not doing such a great job teaching but that’s not necessarily true.  The people in the class could be completely engrossed in the information but they just have really difficult resting faces.  If I really want to know what they’re thinking, I should – you guessed it – ask! Truthfully, I teach about non verbal cues and resting faces is part of that.  Oftentimes I say during class, “If you are interested in this material or enjoying yourselves, some of you should inform your faces.” Usually that gets a chuckle or two.

Withholding judgement can be with regards to not only what people say but how they say it and how they look when they say it.  This takes practice and normally requires you to ask great questions to clarify and control your own verbal and non verbal cues until you’re really clear.

Being patient
Some people are patient but, truthfully, most people aren’t.  Especially in our “get it right now” culture (Thanks Amazon), we don’t often practice being patient.  In communication, patience can gain you an extreme competitive advantage. Taking the time to understand another person requires patience.

Patience to ask the right questions

Patience to let the other person figure out what they are really trying to say

Patience to just, well, develop patience.

Paying closer attention 
To be an active listener, you also must pay closer attention.  In a world of distractions, this is becoming increasingly more difficult to do.  The most effective way to pay closer attention is to remove distractions. Therefore:

  • Silence your phone (and turn it upside down).
  • Close your laptop.
  • If you are easily distracted, sit or stand with your back to where the busiest part of the room is.
  • Summarize what the other person is saying before responding.  This allows you to be sure you heard them (forces you to pay attention) and it has the added bonus of thinking things through before answering too quickly.
In short, you can become a better communicator through practicing active listening.  If you would like to learn more about becoming a great communicator, keep your eye out for the next three parts to this blog.  You can also find live business training on this very topic at The Forum Business School.

Angela Fazio, Instructor and blogger

KEY COMMUNICATION SKILLS Part One: Utilizing Active Listening