Listening is a skill that few people have mastered. And if you find one who has, you can be sure that they are respected and well-liked, regardless of their profession. In my previous post, we discussed managing difficult conversations, especially those that centered around your small business. Listening is a key component of that and deserves its own post. Most of us are anxious to talk about our own selves, few truly listen.

You can improve your listening skills if you have the motivation. Why should you care? Listening well helps you identify, and ward off, potential problems before they ever blossom into real issues. Listening well causes you to more readily spot innovative ideas and opportunities. Listening well helps you build loyalty in your staff and your customers. Listening well makes you a better leader and a better person.

Here are some tips for being a better listener:

1. Start practicing with a small child. Your grandson, your niece or nephew or your own kids who are elementary school aged or younger are dying to be heard-and require a great deal of patience. See #2 for how to get the ball rolling (although kids don’t generally need help).

2. Ask leading questions that display real interest. Don’t ask “Do you like your job?”, ask “What do you like about your job?”. Don’t ask “Are you happy with our service?”, ask “What do you like about our service?”. Or “What were the best parts of your day?” vs. “Did you have a good day?”.

3. Use reflective listening. This requires repeating some of the answers back to confirm you’ve understood. “So, your co-workers are the best part of your job. Is there anything else?” and “I understand you like our warranty. Is there anything else that stands out for you?”.

4. Maintain eye contact, lean forward and minimize interruptions.

5. Pay attention to body language. The words your speaker are saying are not the only clues as to what’s going on. Develop your ability to read and interpret non-verbal cues.

Remember, be patient with yourself. Listening is a skill that develops over time, but if you commit, you will find that all aspects of your life and business can be improved.


by Steven Schlagel