Want to Double Your IQ? Listen!
Each of us is born with a long list of things we can’t change, such as our parents or genetics. But one thing you can change is how you use your gifts.
Lately I have been working on becoming a better listener, and have discovered a number of interesting results.
First, when people talk too much, they stack the odds against themselves. For example, we recently interviewed vendors for a new program, and one account rep talked for a solid hour. He didn’t ask questions, or check to see if he was on track. At no point did he try to identify our central problem. Fifteen minutes in, he had lost our business; I let him talk just to see if he ever would make an attempt to learn about us. He didn’t.
Second, when people get excited, they talk more. That’s okay when they are sharing special news – such as, we just won an award – but not so good when you need to engage others in whatever excites you.
It seems to me that to be a good listener, you need two habits:
1.) Pause early, and regularly. No matter how important your topic, no matter how great your enthusiasm, to ensure that other people understand your message you must pause. Do this soon after you start talking, and keep doing it for as long as you want to communicate effectively. If you wait too long before pausing, you establish the pattern of a monologue, and it is very hard to reverse this perception.
Let the other person talk, ask questions, object or elaborate. Don’t just pause in a token way; actually stop talking and listen.
2.) Provoke a response. It’s not enough just to pause, especially in business. Just before you pause, you need to say or do something that motivates the other person to respond in a meaningful way. Otherwise, they may just utter a few niceties and keep listening to you.
Many people skip this second step, and discover that their conversations go “off track” as soon as they stop talking. For example, executives often intimidate their subordinates, and when they pause the subordinate either mumbles or asks a “dumb question.” In reality, the executive should be asking specific questions, such as, “Have you ever been involved in a project like this before?”
All transmit and no receive is a lousy way to communicate, because you are not communicating at all; you are simply lecturing, with no clue that anyone else understands – or cares about – what you are saying.
The more you pause and provoke a response, the more information you will gather. The more you gather, the smarter you will become.
There are so many reasons why we all tend to talk too much:
● A false sense of urgency
● Infatuation with our own idea
● The desire to dominate others
All of these are traps that not only harm our ability to work with others, but also cause us to act dumber than we really are.
You can’t just decide to listen, then suddenly listen better. Like everything else, it is a habit. The sooner you start practicing, the smarter you will be.
Jim Peake is founder of Addiction-Rep – a marketing and advertising provider to the drug rehab and mental health industry.
Image Credit: id-iom/Flickr