Listen Closely and Get Ahead

By Bob Larson, CPC

Listening is one of the most important of all the communication skills. That’s the opinion of many career experts, and we at Berman Larson Kane couldn’t agree with them more. The simple truth is, if you don’t know how to listen you’re not going to get ahead.

Knowing how to listen is crucial in all relationships – especially those in today’s competitive business environment, according to a Reader’s Digest article on the subject. Without this skill, the article stated, you can’t receive the information you need to act. Successful professionals know that careful listening can reveal unseen problems, identify new trends and opportunities and lead to creative solutions, the article pointed out. They also know, the article stated, that listening will help them build solid working relationships. And getting along with others, most career experts agree, is the single most important determinant of success.

Nevertheless, most of us don’t know how to listen. Studies show that we absorb only a small percentage of what is said. We are wrapped up in our thoughts and emotions. “We spend years learning how to read, write and speak,” Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, told Reader’s Digest. “But we hardly get any training in listening.”

Fortunately, it’s never too late to improve our ability to listen. So if you want to get ahead, we at Berman Larson Kane suggest that you make a top priority of improving your listening skills. To help you get started, we’ve listed below some excellent tips on becoming a better listener, offered by Selling Power magazine. Try practicing them on a regular basis. We guarantee you’ll start seeing some positive results.

  1. Listen to understand, not to reply. You may be tempted to think your response while the speaker is talking, but resist the urge. Give people all the time they need to speak and listen for understanding by concentrating on what is being said, how it is being said, and any nonverbal signs. You can then respond in a way that shows you truly value their input.
  2. Make eye contact. Looking anywhere but at the speaker tells them they don’t have your complete attention. Even if you are taking notes to remind yourself of important points later, glance up often enough to show the speaker they haven’t lost you.
  3. Ask questions. Good listening requires you to interpret what people are saying to you and read between the lines. Make sure there are no misunderstandings by asking questions to clarify points you don’t fully understand. Instead of interrupting, make a brief note of your questions as you think of them and ask when it’s your turn to speak.
  4. Repeat important points. Reviewing what you perceived to be the most important issues, wants, needs, or problems the speaker mentioned serves several purposes. One, it shows the person how well you listened; two, it ensures what you thought was important agrees with what the speaker considers important; and three, repeating the important points using the speakers language may help prevent objections later.
  5. Stay focused. Minimize external distractions and pay close attention to what the other says. Bear in mind that interruptions, the speaker’s speaking style, and your own beliefs, prejudices, worries and interests can hinder effective listening.
  6. Listen actively. To absorb and process everything someone says, active listeners keep their brains engaged while they listen. Listening may be a physically passive skill, but your brain needs to be as active as the person speaking. Learn to absorb and interpret more of what a person is saying to you and you’ll learn more critical information and get more out of every conversation.