The Art of Listening

Active Listening

With all the content and media, the average attention span is now down to as little as eight seconds. That’s right, we tune out after eight seconds, which is less than a goldfish!!

A Dying Art

The need for a good listening ear is imperative as our society speeds up.

Studies indicate that listening is a top skill needed for success in business, yet less than 2 percent of all professionals obtain training to improve listening skills. Listening isn’t taught in schools, colleges and there exist few listening courses available to companies. The subject tends to get dismissed as the dreaded ‘touchy feely’ stuff. Most of us have never been taught how to listen, and with shorter and shorter attentions spans, we’re tuning out people faster, with consequences. Companies lose billions annually, the distance between children and parents grows and more and more people are driven to isolation by the very mediums that were designed to bring us together.

In Business

Listening is an active interpretation that shapes our realities, and it’s the answer to improving employee productivity and increasing business with customers.

Listening is also the key to managing mood, building culture, creating teams and eliminating mistrust, resignation and resentment.

All product information and pricing is available on the Web, which means that a small-business owner’s competitive advantage is no longer found in lower prices. Instead, the advantage is in customer service, and the essence of customer service is listening. When you really listen to customers and take their concerns seriously, they’re happy to do business with you, even if your prices are a bit higher.

In Families

Children turn to drugs, alcohol, excessive gaming and other sources to feel included and deal with the struggles of being understood in adolescence. Divorce rates are climbing as dual working parents live separate lives to run the household, growing distanced by not communicating effectively.

7 Helpful Tips:

Learning to effectively listen will open doors to new opportunities in your business and family life. Are you ready to be an amazing listener? Consider these:

1. Trust you will have your turn to speak. Commit to listening fully. Often we are thinking of a response to what we are hearing, or our own personal agenda. Instead, plan on having time to speak your mind once the person you’re listening to is complete.

2. Ask open-ended questions. You can open the door to deeper communication by asking questions that encourage interpretation. ‘What did you think I meant by that?’ or ‘How did that affect your thinking?’

3. Validate what you heard.  We’re all hungry for validation. Validating someone’s thoughts, opinions or ideas gains favor. Win a friend and open up discussion for greater understanding and creativity.

4. Clarify what you heard the other person say.  Whenever you speak about something important, offer clarity such as, ‘Let me be sure I understood you perfectly,’ and then paraphrase what you heard in your own words. This works especially well with cultural or age differences. Make people feel understood and they’ll keep engaged in your future conversation.

5. Interpret what you hear. True listening involves hearing plus interpreting. Building authentic conversation is about sharing how you’re feeling and building bridges between each other to form practical alliances and agreements.

6. Offer your feedback and constructive opinions. Listening doesn’t always mean mindless agreeing and in fact, people would be put off by a figurative ‘Yes Man’ that is nodding without intention. Active listening is the perfect place for constructive debates, formation of opinion, flushing out problems and creating momentum.

7. Listen twice as much as you speak. There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth.

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To your good mental health,

~Noel McDermott

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