Listening may be the hardest thing we do. There is so much inner noise. Noise to determine how we can win, noise to say something clever in return, noise to ask the next question, noise to solve problems quickly, noise that distracts us constantly from listening.
How do we quiet the noise? Here are a few methods I am practicing:
- Stop thinking – just focus on the other person, customer.
- Look directly at the person talking. No eye wondering.
- When I feel like I’m wondering I literally pinch my wrist. Sounds crazy but try it.
- No note taking while someone is talking. If I have to write something it must be only a word or two and I force myself not to look at the paper or my iPad. Eyes fixed on them at all times.
- Repeat what they said…if you can’t you weren’t listening.
- Stop needing to win or be first.
- Stop needing to solve immediately. Take time to think. Seems like I come up with much better ideas when I do this (what a surprise!).
- If it is an interview or fact finding meeting with a client I am prepared and know my stuff. No pre-written questions, they are in my head. Keeps me from referring away from the person talking. Yes, that takes work and preparation.
- Practice, practice, practice!
When you are prepared and able to focus on customer success (or whomever you are conversing with) the internal noise calms and we are open to actively listening. I’m working on this every day. Join me? It is amazing what we can learn from each other to make us even more remark-able.