How to Become a Better Listener

Imagine your grandfather stationed on the SS John W. Brown off the coast of France in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Now imagine a U-boat commander zeroing in with the intent of torpedoing him and the crew, luckily for us, we had an alert radio operator listening to the incoming message that was arriving.

In 1836 the Morse code was developed, it took another 100 years before its use in WWII gave it world-wide acclaim. The Navy utilized it extensively to communicate from all of their bases to the warships stationed at sea and for long range ship to ship communications. What if the receivers were only partially listening?  The results could have been catastrophic. Most of us are not dealing with life and death situations in our daily lives, but imagine if you could improve your listening habits. What would that mean to you, your family, your clients, your business associates?

Nearly all people when asked if they are a good listener, will say they are. The sad truth is most people actually are not good listeners. The great news is you can improve this area in a short amount of time and can certainly practice this on a daily basis with your friends, children, spouse, significant other and most definitely your clients and prospects. I used to think I was a great listener, but it wasn’t until I went to a conference by the great Brian Tracy that I realized I actually wasn’t.

Practice and you’ll see results

After a month of really listening to everyone I came in contact with I was finally able to put my new skill to practical use. I had a meeting with an All-Pro NFL running back, my initial goal was to simply get him to agree to allow me to represent him. I asked him a series of questions designed to give me an understanding of his off the field interests and what motivated him to do so much charity work. He explained in great detail and with a sense of pride, about growing up poor in the rural South, and how an NFL player took an interest in him.  That experience had a profound effect on him and helped shape his desire to give back. We ended up working together for the next two years, I was able to turn my new found insights into six additional deals because I always included a charitable element into every appearance or endorsement.  Prior to improving my listening skills, I would have been more intent on selling him on me and the two deals I had and never would have really listened to his answers in the depth that I did, which is how I uncovered his true motivation.

If you become a better listener all areas of your life will improve. People will start to look at you in a different way and that confidence will snowball. When I was a Sales Manager at a Global Communications company I used to tell my Account Executives if you ask the prospect or client the right questions and really listen to the answers you’ll find you have enough information to get us the sale.  Many times people are so intent on making their point they cut off the other person or don’t fully engage in their discussion because their main agenda is to have their points heard.

What you can do to become a better listener

Think about the last conversation you had, how many times did you interrupt them? Now try this simple exercise, the next time you are having a discussion and you feel yourself about to disrupt them, instead take a breath and pay even closer attention to what they are saying. When you do respond, repeat a portion of what they just said back to them. Now notice what happens. Work on this for the next week with everyone you come in contact with. See what happens, you’ll also begin to notice the people in your life that always interrupt you. These people could be prime candidates for your help in some area. You should be able to determine what they really want or need and decide if you want to help them get it.