Do some people stop listening before you stop talking? Consider this. When stressed one symptom is that it is literally harder to hear other people. And anyone who says they don’t feel fearful sometimes in the face of this wildly uncertain economy is in deep denial.
That’s a signal to savvy, caring people who want to stay sought-after. Learn exactly how to listen sooner, deeper and longer instead of talking at others, as some research shows we are increasingly doing. Stand out by clearly listening in these specific ways.
1. Practice Connective Listening
Only then can we possibly discover which problem keeps our customers, colleagues and friends awake nights. And solving that one their hottest concerns or serving one of their biggest dreams is the most thoughtful and promising way to deepen their loyalty and trust, a two-way street.
After all, why should they make you a priority if you, with haphazard attention to them, seem to make them simply an option?
And, in this increasingly complex yet connected world, you can’t be an expert at everything. You need diverse friends and allies who care enough to, not only provide insight and contacts when you ask for it, but also before you even know you need help, nor recognize that they can help you.
Proactive noticing and listening and pertinent support provide your surest path to earning that kind of trust and loyalty. That’s why this brief primer on connective listening may help you stay relevant and sought-after.
2. Sequence Your Suggestions
When someone is telling you something it often reminds you of a similar story, and you prepare yourself to respond. Don’t. Keep listening. And when they are done with their point, follow up on it. Don’t revert the conversation back to you. Just Listen further, deeper. Then you will have a better idea about the right bits of relevant information in the order they most want to hear them. Thus you collaborate with them into buying.
3. Are you a Deep Listener, Out-Talker or Somewhere in Between?
One way to recognize if you approach to swaying others is as a thoughtful listener or conversation monopolizer is to de-brief with yourself right after your next interaction where you did want to influence someone.
Hint: Who did most of the talking? As in fishing, until you find the hook that most grabs their attention so they want to know more it is highly likely that you won’t connect and they will get away. This is true, by the way with someone you love, dislike or just met. 4. Ask What May the Most Valuable Question You Can Ever Ask
When you want to get closer to someone, probe deeper into that individual’s underlying interest or concern, and demonstrate that you care, ask this deceptively simple follow-up question, “Tell me more about that.”
5. In Some Ways Mimic a Popular Child
As infants most of us were rewarded with wide smiles and warm voices when we talked. Later we enjoyed more reinforcement for talking as we learned to read.
Beginning in kindergarten, we’ve been rewarded to sit still and be quiet. Yet, even when we do, but we aren’t trained to listen. Yet we are expected to know how. As we grow older we may hunger to be heard and understood yet not learn to listen. We talk until they go on a mental vacation then physically leave.
“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
In this increasingly connected yet complex economy competition can hit faster and from more places. That’s all the more reason to listen closely to diverse people. You’ll be better able to serve your customers and to identify valuable allies with whom you can generate standout value in your mutual market – perhaps becoming the top-of-mind choice.
6. Triangle Your Way to Bonding
Forge the surest, deepest connection by speaking to the strongest sweet spot of mutual benefit. Now that you’ve listened deeply and have a sense of something that’s important to them, take three steps to triangle closer to them:
Step 1 You (Addressing the other person): Speak specifically to their strong interest, then
Step 2 (Us): Indicate that you share that interest
Step 3 (Referring to yourself): Describe why it matters to you See more about the power of Triangling in a book I wrote years ago, called Getting What You Want, which is, ironically, not the title I wanted.
Then you both are primed to continue a conversation about how we can best connect and go farther together around that shared interest. It may be a matter of selling, cross-referring, co-creating, cross-consulting, mutual mentoring or other form of collaboration.
In business that can lead profitable partnerships with complementary companies that serve the same kind of customers as you.
Collaborating with other businesses in this way is often the most credible and cost-effective way to stand out from your competition – a priceless possibility in this bad economy.
“If speaking is silver, then listening is gold.” ~ Turkish Proverb
7. 15 More Ways to Increase the Impact of Your Listening-to-Connect
To increase your chances of strengthening connections in more interactions, consider these pointers:
1. Control outside interruptions and distractions.
2. Where possible meet in a place that is not noisy, where seats are comfortable and where you can sit at a right angle, “sidling”, rather than across from them.
3. Avoid patterned shirts, blouses or other distractive clothing especially on the upper half of your body.
4. Get your whole body involved in listening and show that you are paying attention. Look the person squarely in the eye most of the time, using facial expressions and other non-verbal clues to show that you hear and understand what she is saying.
5. Open your eyes, mind and ears to be truly receptive to the messages the other person presents – both by what they say and what they avoid saying. Begin listening from the very first word and give the person your undivided attention. 6. Lean slightly towards them, look them directly in the eye, nod sometimes and do not fidget. Avoid frequent rapid movements of your arms or legs. You are demonstrating your attention – making the other person the center of attention.
7. Focus on what the person is saying right now. Avoid trying to figure out what she is going to say; you may miss what she actually means.
8. Don’t interrupt. It sends the message that your views are more important than theirs.
9. Confirm your understanding of what they said, using their words. Don’t paraphrase.
10. Ask follow-up questions to clarify and to glean the specific benefits they seek or the problems they want to solve.
11. Take notes. It demonstrates interest and respect and enables you to recall exactly what was said. When you take notes you triple the amount you remember – even if you do not look at them later.
12. Be direct in answering questions. First answer. Then elaborate – not the reverse, which is considerably more common. Don’t give qualifiers and background before answering. That’s underbrush they must wade through. You will seem evasive or thoughtless or both.
13. Remain genial and receptive. Do not react negatively – even and especially to highly charged words and tones. Hear the person out, then respond. Don’t change the topic. Most people will cool down and begin to talk calmly once they vent their anger and frustrations and feel heard.
14. When the other person gets more intense – negatively or positively, she is discussing what most matters to her. That’s your hook. Offer the specific benefit – the solution to that point to move her closer to you or the action you want her to take.
“Every moment counts, and that moment is lost if you’re not in that moment 100 percent.” ~ Tachi Yamada, M.D.
15. Look for connections between apparently isolated remarks. What’s the underlying theme, the hottest thing that most concerns them?
“To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.” ~ Sakej Henderson The bonus? The more strongly that person connects with you the more likely they will emulate your behavior, tell others and extend your presence to their friends and the friends of their friends.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” ~ Karl Menninger
If you’d like to discover more ways to bring out other’s better side so they see and support yours, consider reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Moving From Me to We: Turn Your Life Into the Adventure Story You Were Meant to Live With Others, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error and Influencer: The Power to Change Anything.
Coming up in my future columns: The End of Men and the Rise of Women, Socialized, Get Satisfaction, Participant Media and Fremantle Media: Stories of Social Entertainment Convergence, The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Jeffrey Harmon’s video-as-key-biz-growth strategy, Timeless Truths About Lying, Talk Inc., Daring Greatly, Well Said!, Paid to Think, Weird Ideas That Work, Be the First All Online Business in Your Niche, and Jimmy Soni and Cato’s Lesson for a Divided America.
I’d be delighted if you joined in the conversation with your examples and ideas by commenting here and via Twitter: @KareAnderson