6 Ways To Improve Listening Skills

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by Nancy Friedman

Do you know what the number one skill in sales and service is?

I gave you a hint in the title. Listening skills.

Doesn’t everyone know how to LISTEN? Sort of. Most of us ‘hear’ just fine but truly listening requires more effort? Are there any methods, tricks, ideas, tips or techniques to make us better listeners? Yes. Listed below are some ideas to help you become a better listener.

What do you think the difference is between listening and hearing?

Bottom line: Hearing is physical. Listening is mental.

What do some folks do that others don’t in order to be a good listener? It’s pretty simple. Take a TV commercial. Most of us normally hear it, but do we always listen to it? Probably not. Especially if it’s about something we’re not particularly interested in for ourselves.

Take the Super Bowl. We talk about the commercials before they’re even on TV. How many can you remember now? My guess is you’ll recall those that were of ‘interest’ to you. We probably ‘heard’ them. We may have watched them. But again, how many did we really listen to?  Or truly pay attention to? Presenting 6 Ways To Improve Listening Skills:

  1. Decide to be a Better Listener– That’s like an attitude. You can really decide to be a good listener. It’s a decision. Will everything be of interest or value to you? Maybe not, but not listening can be dangerous. So make a mental decision to listen better to those you talk with; especially if you have asked them a question and they answer. We need to LISTEN to them. We need to acknowledge. We can only intelligently answer and acknowledge if we are listening.
  2. Welcome the Customer – On the phone, in person, in business or at a social event. We need to make the person feel welcomed. That, in turn, helps make you a much better listener. We need to be obviously friendly when we’re talking with a customer. And it needs to be sincere. (Most folks can tell when you’re not.) So bring a welcoming phrase to the table and use it to make the customer feel as though he’s a long lost friend!
  3. Concentrate– Listening is not the time for multi-tasking. And today, we can all turn to the left or right and catch someone texting and probably trying to have an in person conversation as well. One of these things will be in trouble. We simply cannot do two things well at once. Your concentration must be on the conversation – in person or on the phone. Do nothing else but ‘listen.’ Don’t text, don’t hold side conversations, and keep your eyes (and ears) on the person talking.
  4. Keep an Open Mind– Well, why do we need to do this? I’ll tell you why. There are some of us who think we know what the other person is going to say before they say it and so we interrupt (or interject) our comments before the person can answer. That’s not keeping an open mind. That’s not listening to what they’re saying. Some of the times we’re right. And yes, we do know what the person will say, but it’s important to put your teeth in your tongue and not interrupt. By keeping an open mind you’ll gain more information as well. And your listening skills will be sharper.
  5. Give Verbal Feedback– Talking with someone and not acknowledging what they’re talking about is very frustrating for them, especially on the phone, because we don’t even have body language to check out. So come up with a few feedback lines. A few to start you off are: “I see.” “Hmmm, that’s good.” “Ok.” “Interesting.” A few simple words and phrases like that will help the person feel you’re listening and listening well. In person, you have the ability to nod and smile, and they can SEE your expressions. However, on the phone, we need verbal feedback. And be careful we’re not saying the same word over and over. Like OK, OK, OK, OK. That’s just boring.
  6. Take Notes as You Talk– This is my favorite. And yes, even in person. That’s perfectly acceptable! Taking notes lets the person know you’re interested in what they’re saying. It’s a good sign of respect.

I do it all the time when I’m on the phone. I tell the client, “I’m taking notes so I can refer to them later and so I don’t forget what you’re saying.” No one has ever said, “Don’t do that.” Most say, “Thank you. That’s great; that’s super!”

Taking notes so you can refer back is also a big compliment. Don’t forget to do it. It really helps your listening skills.

We encourage you to forward this article to colleagues or include it in your internal publication with the following credit line: “Reprinted with the permission of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training”

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