The Most Important Communication Skill: Listening

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
-Ralph Nichols

Listening is the art of hearing what someone is saying. It is the skill of interpreting the meaning in what you hear. Effective listening is fundamental to great customer relation skills!

Practice Active Listening!

Active listening goes beyond hearing. It includes processing the information to clearly understand the speaker’s intent and working to understand the speaker’s emotion contained within the message.

Attitude plays a very important role in active listening. The skilled active listener is enthusiastic and excited about the prospect of learning more through listening and promoting meaningful insights in others.

Give undivided attention. By clearing your distractions, filtering interruptions and using positive body language (eye contact, sincere expression, leaning forward towards speaker), you will be able to get insights faster.

Paraphrase and playback to ensure you fully understand what the other person is saying.

Ask open-ended questions to avoid the trap of getting one-words Yes or No responses. Asking who, what, when, where, why and how will elicit more information.

Ask Questions like Socrates the Greek Philosopher

Socrates understood that the art of listening means asking the right questions. He pioneered a technique of asking probing, open questions that lead the learner to explore the answers for themselves, gaining insights, fueling curiosity and ultimately leading to increased wisdom. This questioning technique is known as Socratic questioning and is an integral part of the active listening process.

Socratic questioning is so powerful because the questioner engages the other person in the quest for the answer. It is immensely effective in any dialogue where both parties will benefit from cooperating together to find the best solution—the classic win-win situation. It can be sued to enormous benefit in dealing with customers, in coaching, counseling and in mentoring.

The danger of not listening is that you miss important information, or you may de-motivate a customer or even your own team member to communicate further with you. Active listening enables you to address customer and team members appropriately!

An excerpt from What Bosses Want
By Gary V. Nelson and Bonnie L. Nelson
Founders of NBOGroup

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