A wise person once said, “We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking.” This is especially true in our industry, as agencies must be good listeners to understand direction provided by their clients in order to deliver the best outcome. Most of us think we are good listeners, but in reality, we’re not.
Listening requires careful attention. Sometimes people don’t pay careful attention when someone is speaking to them, thinking instead about how to press their point when the other person stops speaking. Also consider that people talk at about 125 words per minute. However, we think at a speed that is four or five times as fast, at 500 words per minute or more. This means that our thoughts move much faster than the words we are listening to and makes it not surprising that we often let our attention wander.
Both anecdotal and scholarly research has shown that developing well-honed listening skills is extremely important in team building, project management, problem solving and ultimately, business success. Good listening skills are a valuable attribute in today’s business climate. In developing improved listening skills, individuals must learn to not only listen to the content of words but also pay attention to body language; it speaks as loudly as words.
While listening seems like it should be second nature to all of us, good listening skills take practice. Below are a few tips to improve your listening skills:
1. Face the speaker. Sit up straight or lean forward slightly to show your attentiveness through body language.
2. Maintain eye contact, to the degree that you all remain comfortable.
3. Minimize external distractions. Turn off the cell phone.
4. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying. Try not to think about what you are going to say next. The conversation will follow a logical flow after the speaker makes her point.
5. Keep an open mind. Wait until the speaker is finished before deciding that you disagree. Try not to make assumptions about what the speaker is thinking.
6. Engage yourself. Ask questions for clarification, but once again, wait until the speaker has finished. That way, you won’t interrupt his train of thought. After you ask questions, paraphrase the speaker’s point to make sure you didn’t misunderstand. Start with: “So you’re saying …”
Joanne Michael is an Executive Vice President at Domus, Inc., a marketing communications agency based in Philadelphia. For more information, visit http://www.domusinc.com. For new business inquiries, please contact CEO and founder of Domus, Inc. Betty Tuppeny at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-772-2805.