The strength of your relationship with your customers and coworkers is partly determined by the nature of your communication with them.
Listening forms an important half of the communication process; if you’re not listening to what customers are saying, you may fail to respond as they would like. If this becomes a pattern, your relationship with them could suffer a breakdown.
Active listening makes this silent part of human interaction a more effective force. When you listen actively, you aren’t just absorbing information spoken by another person. You’re letting them know that you’re paying attention, and helping the conversation on to a fruitful conclusion.
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What Does Active Listening Involve?
When listening actively, you do the following:
1. Make non-verbal signs that show that you’re paying attention, e.g. nodding, maintaining eye contact, smiling).
2. Request for clarifications about things that have been said.
3. Verbally summarize the other persons’ words.
4. Don’t take a judgmental position, especially at the start, and avoid making comments or asking questions that suggest you have.
When you do these things, you’re ‘communicating’ to your conversation partner that you’re closely following what they’re saying.
How Does Active Listening Help at Work?
1. It’s an effective way of blocking out signals that hinder proper communication.
2. It lets your customers and coworkers know that you consider their perspective important.
3. You’re more likely to understand customers’ complaints, and therefore, in a better position to come up with the right solutions to their problems.
4. It may douse existing tensions; the energies of the agitated person get redirected away from confrontation, and towards explaining their position.
5. You’ll gain a reputation for listening. When combined with great problem-solving skills, it’ll improve your relationship with coworkers, boost customer satisfaction, and attract more clients through positive word of mouth.
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How to Practice Active Listening
1. Go into each conversation with the intention to learn.
2. Listen more. Speak less.
3. Ask questions that probe for details crucial to understanding the issues being discussed.
4. Ask open-ended questions, i.e. questions that encourage the speaker to say (and reveal) more. Don’t ask questions that elicit just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as an answer.
5. Present them with summaries of what they have said, and ask them to confirm (or modify) it. You may begin a summary with “Let me know if this is right…”, or “So this is what you’re saying…”
6. Listen to your own responses, so that you keep them in line as you say them.
7. If the other person hesitates to speak, encourage them to continue by nodding or asking them to carry on.
Active listening can do your business and career a lot of good. Begin practicing it today, and watch your communication and business relationships improve significantly.
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