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You Want to Listen Effectively? Here’s What It’s Going to Take

August 27th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The average person can speak at the rate of 160 to 200 words per minute.

The average mind is capable of processing at least four or five times as many words in that same period of time.

What significance does this have when it comes to listening?


It means that our thinking can get way ahead of what the other person is saying and our brain will start to wander as our emotions begin to take over.


You’re all stressed out and your mind is racing.  As a result, you try to look at a person talking, but you are actually thinking about what you are suppose to be doing later in the day, the dinner you had last night, where you’re suppose to be next and did you flush the toilet this morning before you left home.

Why we even bother to listen:

a.    Want to make a positive impression

b.    Want to advance the relationship

c.     Want to show that we care

d.    We have a real need to know what the person is telling us


We were given two ears and only one mouth because listening is twice as hard as talking.

“Listening is not done by the ears, but by the mind.  We hear sounds, but we listen to meaning.”  W. Meissner

Listening is a basic and extremely important human activity.  It enables us to better understand and respond to situations as well as to others.  To be effective at whatever it is you do, being able to listen well is going to be a major determinant factor.

Listening is a communicative dance called “interactive synchrony” where the listener follows and sometime imitates the body language of the speaker.

By carefully listening, you are not only receiving information but you are also continuously trying to make sense of what is being said.  Understand going in that the speaker’s state of mind is different than your state of mind.  The same holds true if you are the listener and the roles are reversed.

Good listening requires mentalizing, which refers to the capacity to think and make inferences about people and their behaviors.  It is the ability to make sense of the other person as well as his or her behavior and your relationship with one another.  For example, whenever you nod or have a concerned look based upon what the other person has said, you are letting that person know you are making sense out of what s/he is telling you.

There is a difference however, between mentalizing and empathizing.  Mentalizing is a cognitive skill.  Empathizing is about appreciating and understanding the feelings of others.  Empathy is an emotional knowing rather than mentalizing, which is an intellectual understanding.

Listening is far more than just listening to words spoken.  It is an active process of discerning and interpreting the meaning of those words.

The ultimate is to listen to someone with an open mind.  To clear our minds and listen without memory or desire.  To make our minds neutral or empty.  Which of course is an illusion and is never going to happen.  If self-centered listening is all about you, then you need to consciously enter into the listening relationship as a self-decentered listener knowing you will never clear your head completely, but you can at least focus more on the other person.

Listening requires constant concentration and a conscientious effort.

Listening is a conscious activity based upon:

  • Attitude
  • Attention
  • Adjustment

A Positive Attitude paves the way for you to be open minded

Paying Attention lets you process what you are hearing

By being adjustable, be flexible and adaptable you can stay with the conversation even if it takes a different course than you thought it would.


When you truly listen to a person, it makes THEM more interested in listening to YOU!


  • People are much more inclined to trust a person who shows respect for them and for what they say
  • People are much more likely to trust you if you’ve listened carefully and helpfully to their problems instead of you trying to tell them what their problems are
  • The more people tell you the more they trust you.

Effective communication exists between two people when the receiver interprets and understands the sender’s message in the same way the sender intended it.

There is a big difference between merely hearing the words and actually listening for the message.

By Listening:

You come to understand what the person is thinking or feeling

You are able to stand in their shoes, seeing through their eyes and listening through their ears.

You come to understand their perspective

You are actively involved in the communication process.

What is it that you need to become a good listener?

Number 1:

Be engaged and stay in the room

  • Do not allow your mind to wander
  • Do not be preoccupied
  • Understand it is a forced engagement to actively listen

(Talk About This as a Group)

Number 2:

Have an open mind

  • Be empathic and nonjudgmental
  • Don’t just listen to respond
  • Don’t be more interested in your own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view
  • Don’t be so interested in what YOU have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor
  • Don’t listen to your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
  • Don’t have an opinion, form an opinion
  • Concentrate on what the person is saying
  • Ask for clarification when you know you do not understand


You can be accepting and respectful of the person and their feelings and beliefs without invalidating or giving up your own position, or without agreeing with the accuracy and validity of their view.

Question and Repeat Back

  • Questioning and listening are joined at the hip.
  • Questioning, paraphrasing and clarifying clearly demonstrates that you were listening and lets the speaker know that you understand or don’t understand the message they are giving.
  • Ask open ended, probing questions to confirm you are engaged
  • By forcing yourself to ask questions, you have to force yourself to listen intently.
  • Take notes as necessary.  This too forces you to listen.

Eye Contact, Body Language and Mannerisms

  • Eye contact is critical in demonstrating that you are listening
  • So does nodding, leaning forward and making encouraging signs and comments.
  • Looking at your watch or people walking by is not sending a good message
  • Crossing your arms and looking judgmental does not send a good message, either.


During the first encounter with a prospective customer, you both have an imperfect understanding of each other.  Which is why you should view yourself as a problem s o l v e r.  In doing so, your job is to uncover the prospect’s underlying concerns, interests, preferences and needs.

To truly accomplish this, you need to gather as much information about the prospective customer as you can.  Discover his or her beliefs, motives, attitudes and values.  The problem is that in reality, all of us never quite see things as they really are.  We see and hear things as we are.  We become captives of our own brain.  To overcome this, we need to first acknowledge this premise, make a conscientious effort to overcome it and then discern the true realities.

We provoke, inquire and challenge.

We let the prospect talk and provide us with the information we need to make a

sound decision.  We allow him to be in charge of the conversation until such time

as we have all of the facts.  This is not a race and the only time limit is the

amount of time the prospect has available to speak with you.  Taking your time

and being thorough is far more important than trying to ram our service down the

prospect’s throat.

You and the buyer are interdependent.

Your task is to create a synergistic situation that what is good for the buyer is

good for you and what is good for you is good for the buyer.  Bring the prospect to a place of discovery, not your answers.

Enter into the conversation:

• Knowing what you know

• Knowing what you know you don’t know

• Trying to figure out what you don’t know you don’t know

“Mr. Smith, is this a good time for us to speak?”

“What specifically do you need from us to make your current situation right?”

1. What is his current situation?  What is in place now?

2. Where is it he wants to go?

3. What have they tried already?

4. What prevented it from being successful?

5. What part of it worked and what part did not work?

6. What changes were made?

7. What changes were attempted?

8. Who was involved?

9. Who prevented what from happening and why?

10. What course of action did they follow?

11. What is it not working to the degree they want things to work?

12. How do they intend to get there?

13. What has prevented them from getting there before now?

14. How will they know they’ve achieved or accomplished what they want to do?

15. Is what they say they want to accomplish truly what needs to be accomplished and how do they know that?

16. Who needs to be involved to make that happen?

17.  What is the political lay of the land regarding this project?

18. What criteria will they be using in their selection process?

19. How will they know that either you or your competition will be the answer.

20. What kind of support or proof will they need?

Be Curious!! Don’t Sell!! Ask your questions, probe, prod, provoke, challenge and above all else… LISTEN!

Listening: An Important Factor in Building Trust and Rapport

Golda Meir once said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”

The greatest compliment you can pay someone is to genuinely listen to him or

her. Listening is the key to building trust.

Three important factors:

1. I am much more inclined to trust a person who shows respect for me and for

what I say.

2. I am much more likely to trust you if you’ve listened carefully and helpfully to

my problems than if you’ve tried to tell me what my problems are.

3. The more I’ve told you, the more I trust you.

Listen More, Talk Less

A recent survey of 432 corporate buyers found that 87%of the respondents

said sales people don’t ask enough questions about their needs and 49%

reported that sales people just “talk too much..”

No one was ever fired or reprimanded for listening too much.

“Man, that guy just listens too much. He just can’t keep his ears shut!”

You cannot and must not assume that the prospect is telling you all that there is to be told.  If you assume anything, you must assume that he is either forgetting

something, left something out, or never considered something else in the first place.

It is your job to make the prospect think.

It is your job to challenge him.

It is your job to provoke him.

Concentration on the customer rather than your services is of utmost importance.

It is the key to closing any sale.  Anyone is always more apt to buy a product

when they can see that it matches their specific requirements.  Especially when

there were some requirements that the buyer would have overlooked had it not

been for you.

When Encountering a Prospect:

First off, you should begin by asking questions even if you think you know the

answers.  Not only listen to what they are saying, but convey that you are

engaged in active listening.

Second, write down what they are saying.  Take Notes!  People want to be in a

relationship with those who respect their point of view.

Third, while taking notes, pause occasionally to read back to them what you

have written.

Fourth, let them do all the talking and do not interrupt them until they are finished

or have a question for you.

Fifth, try to control your words and reactions.  Be humble.  “I think I understand

your position on this, but from my narrow perspective, as limited as it may be

about your particular situation, I see it this way…”

Finally, never argue or debate with them.

See every sale situation as a cross-cultural encounter where you start out

sensitive to their perspective even if it should differ from yours.  Gather

intelligence with the attitude of knowing that individuals not only reveal, but

conceal information – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.


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