With all of the advancements in technology, we have more ways than ever to “connect” and “communicate” with each other BUT we are actually connecting and communicating less than ever.
Next time you are out in public, look around at how many people are staring down at their phones instead of engaging with the people around them, even people they are with. As many ways as there are to “connect” and “communicate” with each other, people report feeling more isolated and out of touch with others. People are craving true connection.
As a leader in your business, this craving creates a unique opportunity for you to stand out. Business is built on good relationships and good relationships are built from strong connections and excellent communication. The foundation of good communication (and what is sorely missing) effective listening skills. Most people listen just to respond. Once they have formulated a response, they quit listening and wait for their time to talk. Unfortunately, their response may no longer be relevant to what the person is saying because they quit listening before the person finished their thought.
Using effective listening skills will serve you well in your business and in your life. Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give to it, and that meaning shapes our reality. The quickest way to establish rapport, understanding and trust with someone is to understand their perception of reality and the meaning they give to things. In order to do this, we have to step outside of ourselves and away from our own perceptions and really listen at deep levels to what someone is saying. One of the most basic (but often unconscious) human desires is to be acknowledged and understood. When we actively listen to someone, we satisfy that desire by offering them the gift of understanding, acknowledgement and validation.
Content and the words spoken only make up about 7% of our communication. The majority of how we communicate is nonverbal – 55% from the physiology and 38% from tone of voice. Effective listening is more about hearing what is not spoken.
Tips on effective listening:
1. Be present. Listening is disrupted by external and internal distractions. External distractions include excessive noise, movement, interruptions and trying to multitask. In order to listen effectively, put down (or better yet, turn off) your phone and step away from your computer. Don’t multitask. Schedule your conversation in a quiet location that doesn’t allow for too many interruptions.
Internal distractions include: monkey mind, formulating a response too soon, thinking about how you handled a similar situation, having an agenda you are trying to push, the need to tell your story, the desire to fix the situation, needing to display your expertise, feeling insecure . . . just to name a few.
To be present, breathe. When you find your mind wandering or your attention being pulled elsewhere, take a breath, bring your focus back to the other person and ask a question to clarify information and engage with them.
2. Identify the expressed feeling. We express feelings all the time when we speak, however most people don’t do it directly. In order to understand what someone is feeling, you have to be aware their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. Once you identify what they are feeling, check it out and see if you are correct. Use a statement like “It sounds like you are feeling _____” or “You seem ____(insert feeling)”. Acknowledging the feeling without judging it or trying to fix it goes a very long way in building rapport and trust in a relationship.
3. Identify their values. Like feelings, we regularly express our values when we speak with others, we just rarely state them directly. Common values are family, freedom, hard work, safety and security. When you know what someone values, you can connect with them on those values and deepen the trust you share. Once you identify a value, check it out by saying “It sounds like ______ is really important to you” or “It seems like you really value ______”.
4. Identify the expressed belief. When you really listen to what people say and what they don’t say, you can hear the beliefs they hold about themselves, about others and about how they perceive reality. Most of the time these beliefs are outside of their conscious awareness. Common beliefs that shape how someone views reality are: “I am not enough” (good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, valuable enough, talented enough . . .) and “I don’t deserve”. As with the feelings and values, once you identify the belief, check it out with statements like “It seems like you think ____” or “I wonder if you believe ______”.
Effective listening will deepen the know, like and trust level in all of your relationships. Really connecting with people and hearing what they are truly saying will make you stand out in your industry. People crave connection and want to be understood and acknowledged. When you make the effort to do that, you build loyalty. As the late Maya Angelou said, “People will rarely remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
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