When someone is talking to you, take the time to listen. Now, most of us tend to think that if our ears are functioning properly then that means we are listeners. But as I used to tell my sister when we were little “You are hearing me, but you aren’t listening!”
When you are communicating with someone, they have to know that you care about what they are saying. Not only is this polite, but in a business relationship it creates an atmosphere of respect that translates to good business between you and a client, or even you and your employees. When people feel that their ideas and concerns are taken seriously, they consistently perform better. Here are three steps you can take to change your average communication to the next level of active communication.
Step 1: Make Eye Contact. Your mom always said “Look at me when I’m talking to you!” That let her know that her message was not only being heard by you but that the contents were making it past your hair and into your brain for comprehension. As adults in business, this same communication method works just as well. When someone is talking, make eye contact. Be conscious of your facial expressions too, and when someone is expressing their ideas and thoughts to you, make sure you present a welcome demeanor. DO NOT play with your blackberry, look out the window, or even write on your notepad. Make actual eye contact and respond with “yes”, “I see”, and “Ok” every once in a while.
Step 2: Mimic Their posture. You learn this step in basic communication classes, but the idea is not to do the “copy cat” routine, but rather that you simply change your stance to something that matches what other person is doing. If they are standing, you stand, if they are sitting, you sit. If they are crossing their arms, consider crossing yours. (“Communicating with your Team“) Do not copy all of their gestures during conversation, but be conscious of your body language and intentionally have an air about you that communicates to the other person that you are on track with what they are saying and that you are understanding them completely.
Step 3: Listen for Understanding. When someone is talking to you, do not just hear their words. Listen to what they are saying from the perspective of responding. Think of questions that you might ask them about their thoughts. Try to understand what they are talking about and why the person might feel the way they do. Even if they present a problem you are not prepared to solve at that meeting, take the time to express to the person that their concerns are valid and that you will consider them.
As you become a better active listener, you will be shocked at how well your business relationships grow. Your potential clients will trust you more as a business partner. Your current team members will be happy to work for you and with you. In addition, the overall morale and success rate of your projects will improve because as a leader you will be more in touch and on top of the concerns of your team than ever before.