As CRE professionals, listening skills are one of your most powerful tools. It sounds basic and maybe even obvious but hear me out (pun intended). There is a difference between listening to speak and listening to understand. That later refers to active listening, a pattern of attentive listening that keeps you positively engaged with your conversation partner. We’ll be breaking this down a bit later. Active listening is embodied through paraphrasing, reflecting on what is said, and withholding judgment or advice. And that is the kicker – withholding judgment or advice.
At Spacelist, we care about clarity and communicating effectively, so we thought this topic might be helpful to our CRE audience. Active listening is a skill that can be applied to so many aspects of daily life. For example, you can apply this concept to your marketing efforts to understand your customers on a deeper level and make better marketing decisions. Without further ado, here are 8 (+) tips to help you master active listening in your life and business.
“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Active listening is a tool that builds trust, camaraderie, and general rapport. Listening is a skill that feels like it should be intuitive, but in today’s culture, we forget how important it is.
Play the interviewer:
To actively listen, it is crucial to ask for clarification when something isn’t clearly understood and then summarize their response to ensure understanding. These tools will help you connect with the person and allow them to feel genuinely heard. Often we wait for an opportunity to respond, preparing what we intend to say ahead of time. The problem is that we aren’t listening when preparing our monologue for the next ‘break.’
“There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The goal of active listening is to be a sounding board and not an opinion dispenser. Because active listening isn’t something most of us are programmed to do naturally, it takes practice. Much like meditation, this type of listening requires mindfulness and being in the moment to do it successfully.
Author of The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck said, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”
Along the road of discovering active listening, pitfalls are plenty:
The enemy of being an engaged conversation partner include any of the following: being stuck in your head (anticipating your next ‘move’), not showing respect for the speaker (which could manifest itself as being distracted #smartphoneproblems), only hearing superficial meaning (not hearing underlying intention, which requires a bit more energy, perhaps) interrupting, not making eye contact, rushing the speaker, or only pretending to pay attention…the list goes on.
Other facets to be aware of:
- “Topping” a story (saying “that reminds me of the time…”)
- Asking about unimportant points
- Focusing too much on the details and missing the big picture
- Ignoring what you don’t understand
Ask clarifying questions:
Requiring a neutral and nonjudgmental attitude, actively listening leans heavily on patience and verbal and nonverbal feedback (such as smiling, eye contact, leaning in, and mirroring). This type of engagement shows attentiveness. These responses provide a foundation to ask questions and reflect on what is said.
Examples: “So what I hear you saying is….” “This is what I understood from what you said….” “*summarize*, did I get that right?” “To confirm, what you said was…”
Try not to interrupt:
According to youthemployment.UK, “interrupting tells the person speaking that you don’t care what they have to say. You think that your voice is more important or don’t have time to really listen to them. It can even make it seem that you weren’t really listening properly at all and were just waiting for your moment to interject.”
Watch non-verbal behaviour:
The early 2000’s drama ‘Lie to Me‘ is a masterclass in the world of micro-facial expressions and how we often say what we don’t mean. (Fun Fact: the show is based on real-life psychologist Dr.Ekman, who trailblazed the study of the correlation between emotions and facial expressions). Facial expressions and tone of voice are powerful indicators of meaning.
Make sure you show engagement by nodding or making eye contact where possible. It’s also worth noting that “if a person’s words fail to match their nonverbal cues, it’s best to trust the nonverbal messages. Listen with your eyes. In most cases, the nonverbal message is much more accurate,” according to smartbrief.com.
As uncomfortable as it may feel, silence allows the speaker space to complete their thoughts. It is a powerful tool for genuinely listening. So lean into the discomfort of silence, which can be a valuable sales and negotiating tool.
According to Very Well Mind, “we are capable of listening much faster than others can speak.” So with that in mind, embracing an attitude of patience will serve you well when in conversation. Basically, mindfulness and staying present in the conversation instead of defaulting to what is default is a great place to start.
Podcaster and educator Natalie Vardabasso (EduCrush) said, “I think active listening can be performative. – taking turns, making eye contact, and nodding your head. Empathetic listening is the key. We need to climb into the emotion the other person is feeling and sit beside them in it.” When we approach our interactions with this type of intention, the outcome will be two heard and understood people. In life and business, isn’t that the dream outcome?
Pro Tip: Spacelist’s Pro subscription can help increase your listing visibility so you can put your new active-listening knowledge to work.
P.S. Did you find this article helpful? Share it with a friend.