Listening is an art that requires attention over talent,
spirit over ego, others over self
Ah, yes, listening, one of the three key components in being an ‘elegant conversationalist’ and arguably THE most important element; it is the listening that ‘unlocks’. Equally, we tend
to believe we are better at this than we really are, and although it should be one of the easiest skills to practise in the cut and thrust of life, we don’t. So how good do you think your listening skills are? We tend to think we’re pretty good at this, but in fact, unless we have a hearing problem, what we are actually all good at is ‘hearing’. Listening is paying attention and making a conscious effort to process not just what is being said, but the meaning and emotion behind it.
If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than
you can by talk
Robert Baden Powell
Listening well needs practice and discipline.
Ask yourself (or for some honest feedback, ask somebody close to you) how many of these
you consistently do or don’t do:
– Listen with real intent to understand the meaning
– Listen with a genuine desire to help
– Listen with a willingness to facilitate a genuine solution
– Listen with half a mind on what you’re going to say
– Make assumptions
– Fill silence with chat
– Appear disinterested
– Dive in
In The Elegant Conversationalist workshop we will be taking a good look at listening skills along with the other two key elements: questioning skills and developing your value
proposition. We will also be having a little bit of fun along the way! Meanwhile, here are five of my top tips to get you listening:
1. Do not assume anything. Instead first seek to understand and keep an open mind.
2. Be honest if you have not understood something. In my early years I was rubbish at this; I was always worried people might think I was an idiot!! In fact, the reality is that people generally appreciate and respect any effort made to properly understand what they are saying.
3. Clarify, clarify, clarify. Don’t let important information get lost in translation.
4. Never interrupt. The reality of actually achieving this is tough. I know I still do it from time to time, and I experience it being done to me daily. In video and conference calls this can happen a lot! I often think these situations would make a great comic sketch. It tends to happen when we haven’t heard something properly or wish to clarify a point being made. So try to keep it to a minimum; it’s frustrating to be on the receiving end, and you may miss out on something important and interesting that was going to besaid. To help you with this, try making a note and clarify later.
5. Embrace the silence. Pause before you respond; often people add something. It’s a great skill to be able to demonstrate that you are reflecting on what has been said in a conversation.