Most people are not born with good listening skills, but rather they are learned over many years.  After reading this blog post, I don’t expect you to become a master with your listening skills.  However, I will point out some important factors that will enhance your ability to become not only a better listener, but communicator as well. Leave Your Ego At Home

Professional pride is one of the biggest obstacles to being a good listener.  A humble attitude is not suggested, but rather required.  Try to genuinely focus more on what is been said and not on what you would like to say.

Empathetic Listening

The essence of good listening is to listen with empathy, which requires you to view the interaction from the other person’s (customer) point of view. When you try to put yourself in another’s shoes, it is much easier to understand that individual’s message and the motivation behind it. Empathetic listening requires that you lay aside your personal agenda, your pride, and any defensive mechanism you may possess, and enter into a discussion with your customer as a vulnerable, teachable, imperfect person.

Avoid Commentary

Make every attempt to resist the urge to evaluate every statement your customer makes for its validity or usefulness. Learn to listen without judging either the customer or the content of the message.  I know that this can be particularly difficult, but you’ll keep moving the ball down the field if you do.

Show Interest…I Mean Genuine Interest

Although it may seem insincere, assuming an “interested” posture (leaning in, eyes front, not preoccupied and for goodness sake, don’t look at your watch) will help you become interested, even if you find the subject or the customer less than dazzling.

Remember, It’s Not About You

Resist the urge to share your own stories, however relevant they may seem to you. Especially resist the urge to exceed each point with an anecdote about how thesame thing happened to you before, only much worse.

Offer Affirmation

Learn to use words and actions that affirm the customer without necessarily expressing agreement. Affirmation means letting a customer know his or her message is being received, not that you agree with every word.

It’s OK To Take Note, Unless Otherwise…

Taking notes is almost always permissible, unless your customer specifically tells you their comments are “off the record.” If you do take notes, you’ll be surprised at how much better you remember the conversation later, even without referring to them.  Remember, leave the ego in the car…It’s ok to take notes.

Appropriate Response

When it is time for you to respond, reinforce the communication process by responding appropriately. Appropriate responses include restating the customers main points, acknowledging actions expected of you or your company, and asking clarifying questions. Inappropriate responses include reciprocal attacks, defensive posturing, and changing the subject to something of greater interest to you.

In Closing…

People (customers) like to talk about themselves and their respective companies.  Do your homework before walking in their office and know as much as is prudent for the circumstance.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly…have fun while you’re doing it!

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*Photo by Jerry Reynolds