One of my favorite quotes from the Bible is James 1:19 – "Be slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to listen." That about says it all! God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason and I believe we should use them in proportion.

Listening is an art. It is an art that, for the most part, has been lost in society today. In business and in your personal life being a poor listener can have some devastating effects. As part of my business, I network A LOT – Chamber of Commerce events, networking groups, civic organizations, referral groups, etc and it is readily apparent that listening is a skill that seems to deteriorate with each passing day.

If you have developed bad listening habits over the years and are committed to improving it, you must work at it just like any other habit. It will require patience, practice and discipline. It's no different than starting an exercise routine or stop smoking or biting your nails.



In business as in life, your primary aim should be to build trust. Nothing builds trust faster than listening (other than, perhaps, saving someone's life). THAT'S WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO YOUR BUSINESS!

Would you agree that the more someone talks, the more they like you?
Let's conduct a short self-assessment: Are you a good listener? Do people feel better or worse after they have been with you? Would others describe you as a good listener?

Do you listen with your eyes? You must do more than hear the spoken words; you must read body language, interpret what is NOT being said.

Do you seek to understand rather than to be understood? If you are simply pushing your own agenda on someone or cramming your talking points down their throat, you may as well turn your back to the person. The impact of both behaviors is the same. There is nothing worse than a salesperson who is so focused on following their script as to miss a buying signal.

Do you ask great questions? Asking great questions is the secret to great listening. However, the ability to ask great questions is predicated on your ability to be a relaxed listener. In its simplest form, a relaxed listener is one who is more focused on what the other person is saying rather than their intended response. Think of yourself as a reporter. Your job is to get information or "intel, not to give your opinion. Granted, in a business situation, you will obviously be in a give-and-take conversation but your focus should be on the other person not yourself.

Are you an authentic listener? This simply means that you actually care about what the other person says. You are curious, empathetic and allow the other person to complete their train of thought without interruption.
If you have one take-away from this, remember that during an ideal sales call, you should be listening 75%-80% of the time. How else will you determine what the prospect's pain is? If you don't know what the problem is, how can you offer a solution?

One final thought: part of listening is the seeking of advice and counsel. Andy Stanley has an expression, "what and who you listen to will influence what you do." Obviously, this has implications on business and life in general but we are focusing on business. Who do you seek business advice from? Who should you be listening to? Whose advice should you stop listening to? Who do you avoid when it comes to advice about business? Sometimes the thing you need to hear the most is the thing you want to hear the least. A big part of ‘the lost art of listening' is who and how to seek counsel.

Possible Solutions:

In any conversation, be "interested" NOT "interesting".
Practice being a relaxed listener by:
Focusing on what is being said and articulating follow-up questions. When in doubt try, how do you mean?" That is a great, all-purpose question that gives the speaker permission to expand upon what they are saying.
Learn to archive your responses. This takes practice. When you hear something that you want to comment on, archive it in your brain rather than remaining focused on your response. Think of your brain as a filing cabinet where you file away your comment for later use (in this case whenever the speaker stops talking). If you do not practice this archiving technique, you will most likely stop listening as your entire focus is on your intended response. Imagine how detrimental that could be if in a sales situation. You have essentially ended the conversation without the other person's knowledge.Make eye contact!
Take notes when appropriate.
Make listening noises – "I see", "I understand", nod your head, smile, grimace, lean forward.
Restate what is said.

Author's Bio: 

Shawn Brodof is the President and Head Coach of Clarity Coaching. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, his focus is helping business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professional get organized by providing clarity, structure and accountability. He works with his clients either one-on-one, in group settings or in day-long boot camps helping them make incremental improvements in their business. He is also a keynote speaker offering training and workshops on various business-related topics. He can be reached at: