Think back to a moment when you were talking to someone who was really listening. You knew this person wasn’t just half listening. You knew he/she wasn’t thinking of something else when listening to you. You had the feeling that his/her total focus and concentration was squarley on the words coming out of your mouth. You just knew that he/she was listening 100%.
What did you do in that situation?
Did you not release a torrent of information? Were you not excited at this rare opportunity to talk with someone who was truly listening? Did you not open the floodgates of your knowledge to this person? Were you not flattered that this person was giving his/her total undivided attention to you? Did you not feel closer to this person afterwards? Did you not feel compelled to give this person more information in the future?
Absolutely. I’ve been in this situation before and each and every time I unloaded torrents of information (which is very rare for me as I tend to listen more than I talk) was when, and only when, I knew the other person was listening 100%. I’ve also been on the other side as well, listening intently to the people around me, and their answers to the questions in previous paragraph were all yes as well. How do I know? Because they told me afterwards.
Listening effectively is one of the few skills out there that reap huge returns, IF and only if, one takes the time to invest in learning how to do it.
“To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also.” – Igor Stravinsky
So how can we become great listeners?
Develop a desire to truly listen.
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Earnest Hemmingway “Every person in this life has something to teach me – and as soon as I accept that, I open myself to truly listening. ” – Catherine Doucette “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” – Bernard M. Baruch
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk. ” – Doug Larson
Every human being is a walking encyclopedia of not only information, but of real life experience that you just can’t get from books. When people speak of their experiences, they color them with emotion and vigor, those of which cannot be conveyed to you from reading text alone. As a result, what they tell you may have a profound impact on you and your life from that moment on.
Not only do you learn about the information and real life experiences the other person conveys to you, you also learn about the other person. You learn his/her viewpoints in life, how he/she perceives things, what his/her likes and dislikes are, etc., knowledge of which you can aid you in the future.
I like to think of listening to people as getting an education in “street smarts”, because if you think about it, some of the most valuable information we get from listening to other people is not necessarily taught in the classrooms. I’m reminded of a saying that goes something like “You can learn more from sitting across the table from a wise man in one hour, than you can from a year of reading great books.”
Think about it. When talking to a wise person, you can ask him/her the questions you find yourself needing answers for. You can probe deeper. You can get better understanding and clarification, whereas from a book, it’s a one sided conversation. That’s not to say you can’t learn a great deal from books, you absolutely can. It’s just that when listening to people, the learning process is a lot more flexible.
“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
Nothing screams “I value you” more to a person than listening to them.
Listening deposits huge checks of trust and rapport because it does fill the basic need we all have. It may seem the person who is talking is getting the longer end of the stick, but in reality, it is you, the listener who benefits more. You really do.
Find the story.
Everybody has their own story they want to tell. Your job as a good listener is to find out what that story is and to elicit it. Anybody can be a listener when it comes to talking about common topics of discussion, but good listeners are the ones who dig around to find out where the button that when pushed, will get the other person to start talking about what he/she loves.
The story may be about the time they scored the winning goal. The story might be about the dream house they wish to own. It may be about the restaurant they want to open. It might be about thee good times in college. Whatever it is, it won’t become apparent right away. You’ve got to dig around until you find a topic where you’ll see their eyes light up and that right there is what you should pursue.
There will be times when the story you elicit might not seem particularly interesting to you, and you may be tempted to switch, but remember it is important to them so allow them the opportunity to fully express themselves (chance are, some of the things you’re passionate about may not seem interesting to others, but when they listen, are you not appreciative?). I can also guarantee you that you will be able to learn something out of it just because the other person is so passionate about it.
Really desire to understand.
When you find the story they want to talk about, and they start telling you excitedly about it, really, truly desire to understand what it is they’re saying.
What this will do is conform your whole body and mind toward the speaker. Your body will face the speaker. Your eyes will lock onto his/her eyes. Your eyes won’t shift and scan the room. You’ll begin to mirror their body language unconsciously. You’ll keep quiet. Your mind will be focused on the words coming out of his/her mouth.
Ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Most people will be very happy to clarify. This is very flattering to the other person because it means you really are interested and listening. Sometimes, just to test if people are really listening to me, I throw out a few complex nuggets of information here and there to test if they’ll ask for clarification. If they just nod along as I throw that information out, I’m pretty sure they are not actively listening. They’re probably just listening politely. On rare occasions, it’s possible they may know what I threw out, but again, very rare. I also know for a fact that I’m not the only one who uses this test form time to time. You’ll find a lot of people use it. When the test comes, don’t fail. Ask.
Asking for examples is a great way to get clarification. I often use this when I’m don’t have a clue and when they give an example, clarification clicks in my head. Then put what they’re saying in your own words and tell them to see if you understand what they are saying. This is an excellent way to really understand what the person is talking about.
Build momentum on the story.
Don’t let the momentum slow down. Build it. By doing so, the other person will share more information and you’ll learn a ton more.
If the other person senses that he/she hasn’t lost you and still has your undivided attention, they’ll keep going. Show you’re paying attention by nodding your head along as they speak. Give verbal and bodily indication that you’re still with them.
Ask questions to get more answers. How, what, when, where, why. Lead the conversation deeper, but don’t get too invasive. Probe little by little until you detect a barrier and stop.
Repeat the last phrase of what they’re talking about as a question to get more information. For example: “I worked my butt off at XYZ company, but didn’t get a raise.”
“Didn’t get a raise?”
“Yeah, tell me about it. So you know what I did? I ….”
And now you know another method of getting a raise (provided he/she actually did get a raise).
Building momentum builds more information and trust.
If you’ve gotten this far, there’s only a few more things you have to look out for.
Don’t steal the flow
Sometimes, people inadvertently take what the speaker has said and run with it in their own way to dominate the conversation, leaving the other person a bit frustrated and disappointed that you stole his/her thunder so to speak. Don’t be impatient. Your time will come. If you take the time to listen to the other person, the other person will take the time to listen to you when it’s your turn, guaranteed.
Don’t switch the topic
Along the same vein of not stealing the flow, don’t change the topic in the middle of the conversation. That’s the worst thing you can do to ruin the momentum. There’s nothing greater you can do to undo all the trust and rapport you built than to switch to a totally different topic than the one the other person has been spending a significant amount of time. Nothing screams “I wasn’t really listening” louder than that.
Listen, don’t solve
Don’t offer advice until it’s requested. Remember, the reason why good listeners are good listeners is because they do just that, they listen. Sometimes, people just want to vent and get everything out of their system. The truth is everybody does, and they will appreciate it if you let them do just that.
When you have really listened, it is really you who has come out on top because you learned so many different things. Show appreciation by thanking the person for all the things you learned. The ironic thing here is that even before you begin to thank them, sometimes you’ll find they will be the ones to thank YOU.
Everything in balance
Be careful as to who and what you choose to listen too. Many times, if people perceive you to be a good listener, you may become a dumping ground for frustration and negativity. It’s understandable that sometimes people need to vent and get their feelings out, but at the same time, it’s dangerous to always be on the receiving ends of such negativity. It can literally poison you so exercise caution when choosing who and what to listen to.
The good news is, now there is a quicker and easier way to learn how to connect and profit from Joint Ventures through The JV University’s 12 week hands-on certified JV consultant’s training program where me, Willie Crawford, David Preston and Gina Gaudio-Graves hold your hand and even let you work on LIVE projects while you are being trained.
For more information on our 12 week JV certified hands-on program please click the link below:
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To Your Abundant Joint Venture Success!
President & Co-Founder, The JV University
Sohail Khan (the “7 Figure JV Expert”)