(By Lisa Thal) If there is one communication skill you should master, it is listening. Actively listening can be the key to opening more sales and providing better customer satisfaction. It can also build better relationships with your co-workers.
At times, listening may be difficult for us. Research suggests that the average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words over the course of a 24-hour period. How can we process so many words in a day?
The key is to focus on listening. If we are listening only occasionally, we may miss critical information our clients are trying to share with us. When we listen with intention, we have the ability to build trust and uncover where the real opportunity is to help our clients.
But has listening become a lost art? Today, there are more electronic distractions than ever before, all of which can contribute to our inability to listen. Everyone, including our clients, wants to know they are being heard. Don’t we want the same thing? How many of you have experienced a meeting where the other person was looking at their phone or computer and not listening to you? Imagine how the other person feels when you do the same thing.
Our minds can only focus on one thing at a time — it’s nearly impossible to focus on multiple thoughts at once, and it’s easy to become distracted by computers and phones and all the messages we receive every day. But when you’re aware of the importance of listening, you can focus on being fully and actively present for each interaction.
Here are some interesting facts and figures from CreditDonkey about how well people listen and what it is we listen to.
How much time do people spend listening? People spend between 70 and 80 percent of their day engaged in some form of communication, and about 55 percent of their time is devoted to listening.
What’s the average speaking rate? Some people talk more quickly than others, but on average, the typical person speaks at a rate of anywhere from 125 to 175 words per minute.
How many words can we listen to per minute? Your ears work a little faster than your mouth. The average number of words you’re able to listen to per minute is around 450.
How much of what we hear is absorbed? Even though your ears are capable of picking up on so many words, your brain doesn’t necessarily process all of them. Most people usually remember only about 17 to 25 percent of the things they listen to. Think about that fact. It’s critical to make sure you communicate effectively so your client understands all the benefits you are recommending.
Are men or women better listeners? Research shows that men only use half their brains to listen while women engage both lobes.
How important are the words we say? You might be surprised to learn that your words convey only about 7 percent of what you’re trying to say. The other 93 percent is communicated through facial expressions and the tone of your voice. So try to become more aware of your body language. Are you leaning into the conversation? By looking into the other person’s eyes, you let them know you are actively listening and you care about what they are saying.
Are you ready to become a better listener? Here’s how!
1. Listen with intention. Ever wonder why we have two ears and one mouth? We should listen twice as long as we speak. Put aside any distractions that keep you from listening.
2. Listen to learn. Approach each conversation with the intention of learning something new. Then write down what you learned from the conversation.
3. Ask probing questions. Asking thought-provoking questions keeps your brain engaged. You will build a better rapport by allowing the other person to share their thoughts and insights.
4. Wait to respond. Let the other person finish speaking before you respond. In fact, I would recommend pausing before you begin to reply. This gives you time to process what the other person is trying to communicate to you.
I love how Richard Branson describes the importance of listening: “Effective listening is a skill that underpins all positive human relationships. Spend some time thinking about and developing your listening skills; they are the building blocks of success.”
Lisa Thal is the general sales manager for Hubbard Interactive Cincinnati. She’s also the author of Three-Word Meetings: A Simple Strategy to Engage, Inspire and Empower Your Team. Get it on Amazon.com.