During leadership and sales workshops, I enjoy using an exercise called "The repeater". The principle is simple: I start a short sentence, then volunteer a participant whom I ask to first, repeat my sentence word-for-word and second, randomly add on to it. Next, he or she points out someone else whom has to recite the full sentence and add something extra to it. We then move to another person, and so on.
Participants' reaction speaks volume: they sit straighter on their chairs, prick up their ears and get into an active listening mode. The more participants, the deeper people's attention become because they do not want to miss out any words.
What's the key lesson for me? Simply, that people do have the ability to listen.
We never listen enough. Let me share 3 examples that demonstrate our lack of listening :
When our brain starts wandering around while our interlocutor is speaking and we loose complete attention of what is said.
When we are formulating our answer in our mind while the other person has not finished talking.
When we quickly interrupt our interlocutor because we absolutely want to give our opinion. This usually goes hand-in-hand with example 2 above.
Imagine how such a behavior can impact sales : missing opportunities, showing a careless or arrogant attitude to prospects, imposing our ideas, among other examples. Customers frequently complain about sales people not understanding their needs. How can they if they don't listen?
Sales people, business leaders, and actually everyone should learn to speak less and listen more. I mean truly listen.
What happens in a workshop where participants are forced to adopt a listening attitude through a fun exercise, can also take place outside. To do so, I recommend to remember the following:
Listening is a skill, and like any skills, getting better at it requires practice. There are dozens of occasion a day to train your listening muscle.
Listening is an attitude too. Switch on the listening button: make time for people, be genuinely interested in what they say, don't judge, clear up up your mind from any possible interference.
Your behavior shows your listening quality. Remove any potential distractions, use your entire body (e.g. maintain eye contact), let people finish their sentences, and ask questions to clarify comprehension.
How well do you listen? My guess is: you can improve.