Have you ever had the pleasure of knowing someone with a seasoned academic past who thinks he’s learned everything there is to know through formal education? On paper, he may seem like the perfect candidate for a position, but for some reason he never truly excels. He may have a hard time with his career and relationships because he is lacking in one simple yet very important skill: listening.

People who work in sales positions have probably heard that a salesperson should spend 70% of a sales meeting listening. Why? Other than shyness or a lack of something interesting to say, why should we be the ones devoting so much time receiving a message rather than spending the bulk of the time delivering a message?

Let’s look at this from the buyer’s perspective. Have you ever been involved on the wrong end of someone’s “product dump”? This is where someone is basically throwing up every detail you could ever want to know about a product or service without any idea of how the information he is spitting out could specifically benefit you. It may seem really interesting to find out that there’s a fondue machine that can separate streams of both cheddar and pimento cheese at once, but if you’re on the road 45 weeks a year and never have time to host an event, do you really care?

There are two things a person does when she listens. One, she disarms feelings of combativeness to control the conversation. If a conversation isn’t a two-way street, it’s a lecture. Another thing that happens when a person listens is that she learns about the person she is engaging in conversation with, which allows her to formulate a message that is geared toward that person, his feelings, beliefs and current mood.

Years ago, I knew a person who was extremely intelligent but never listened. This caused serious problems between him and his employees. He actually told me that when he was in a conversation or meeting on an issue, he would intentionally block out what other people were saying to think of his response. This was apparent and caused problems with co-workers regularly. If this person had practiced the art of listening a little more, I’m sure his work relationships would have been much stronger.

Now to You…
What about you? How do you feel when you’re trying to engage in a conversation and you know the other person isn’t listening? Do you have any strategies to help you focus on what the other person is saying? If so, how have those things impacted your relationships?

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