By Alan Graner
What’s the opposite of talking?
No, it’s not listening. It’s waiting to talk.
You know what I’m saying. You’re talking to someone when the telltale signs begin to appear: the fidgeting, the jerky hand movements, the sharp intake of breath, the slight leaning forward, the excited eyes.
At that moment you realize they haven’t heard a word you’ve said because they’re too busy thinking about what they’re about to say. Like some predatory animal they’re lying in wait, ready to pounce and interrupt the first time you pause.
A mild panic sets in; you’re about to lose your soapbox! You begin talking faster, eliminating any pauses, providing no natural breaks where they can jump in. Unfortunately, nature conspires against you; eventually, no matter how hard you try, you must breathe. And when you do….
How to listen effectively
Unfortunately, most of us have never learned how to listen, to really hear what the other person is saying…or not saying.
To listen effectively you must:
- Give up the urge to interrupt. Once people know they have the floor, they relax and open up.
- Make appropriate sounds to encourage them to keep on speaking.
- Look directly at them, especially if you’re at some kind of gathering. It’s a bit insulting if you are constantly scanning the room to see if there’s someone more important/interesting/attractive to talk to.
- Go beyond superficial polite conversation. Ask probing questions that require more in-depth information/analysis/opinion. By asking questions you accomplish two important tasks: 1) it indicates you’ve listened, and 2) you’re interested in hearing more. Few people can resist this.
What’s in it for you? You can learn lots of amazing tips, tricks of the trade, strategic information, more efficient ways of doing things, perhaps even new ideas that will help you attain success.
You might make a new friend, a strategic ally, a mentor, a referrer, someone who can open doors that were previously closed. Hell, you might even get a date.
What listening skills can you add?
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business marketing content and distribution firm. For content that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.