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May 2011

"Ask Questions and Really Listen..."
by Sidney C. Walker


I recently did both of the Communication Trainings at Landmark Education. They are brilliant. I got major insights and breakthroughs on both how I communicate with others and how I communicate with myself. I was reminded of a couple of important techniques that I want to share here.


One technique, for lack of a better name, is "just listening." And, it helps if you ask a question first to get people talking so you can then listen. For now, let's focus on the listening part.


Most people don't really listen to what the other person is saying. In most cases we are thinking about what we are going to say next. Or we are thinking about the next part of our sales presentation or deciding what point we want to make next.


Or, what is most common is that when the person you are having a conversation with says something that reminds of something that happened to you, you start to talk about that. So we are usually only partially listening to the other person. We are mostly listening to our own little voice in our head trying to decide what we are going to say next. Oh sure, we listen a little so our comments will be in the general range of what the other person is talking about, but we are only listening to them with a part of our attention.


One of the most powerful things you can do to build rapport and trust with people is to really listen to what they are saying. Try to imagine exactly what it is like to be them. Get in their shoes, see through their eyes. Try to get a picture in your mind or a feel for what they are saying. See if you can hear what emotion is behind what they are telling you. See if you can hear what they are not saying. Obviously, you can't listen for all the finer details if you are thinking about what you are going to say next. So get the attention off of yourself and so you can really listen to them.


You don't have to be thinking about what you are going to say next. There won't be a dead spot in the conversation. You won't panic and have nothing to say. If you are really listening to the other person, you will have something to say about what they said or you can acknowledge that you heard what they said and move to the next part of your process. The habits and concerns we have that make us focus on ourselves rather than the other person are a misperception.


People are starving to for the simple attention of having someone really listen to them rather than half listen and be thinking about what they are going to say next. If you really listen to someone, if you recreate in your mind what they are saying, if you give their conversation 100% attention; magic happens. They feel heard. They feel understood. Larry Wilson said it years ago and they are many versions of what he said: "People buy because they feel you understand them." They feel understood when you really listen to them and let them know you heard them.


There is a lot more to this than I have space for here. But you get the idea. What if people trust you faster and buy quicker if you really listen to them? What if taking the time to really listen to people is ten times more powerful than making all the points of your presentation? Some of you already know this is true. I've had firsthand experience that reminded me of the power of just listening in the training I've done.


One of the most wonderful experiences I know of is to have someone really listen to what you have to say without feeling like they are trying to cram their agenda into the conversation. Trust there will be time for your agenda. Trust that you will make progress with your sales process. The reality is that the more you really listen to what people are saying, the more they are going to want to meet with you again, regardless of what you talk about. And isn't that what you really want, a second meeting?


Enjoy the long weekend,

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