In my first year in sales, I read a book about how to be a good listener. The book said that if I wanted to be a good listener, I should make eye contact, say “Uh-huh” a lot, and then paraphrase what the person just said.
I couldn’t wait to go on my next sales call. I asked my prospect a question, made solid eye contact, said “Uh-huh” a lot, and then said the words I read in the book over and over… “So, what I hear you saying is…”
Take it from first-hand experience; this type of listening does NOT work. My prospect looked at me like I was from Pluto and said, “If you’re having trouble keeping up, maybe I should go a little slower.”
I was pretty embarrassed, and when I got back to my office, I quickly tossed the book into the trash.
DON’T LOOK FOR LISTENING “TECHNIQUES”
Don’t look for techniques on how to listen better. The people who are great listeners do so because they want to be great listeners, not because they learned the latest “technique” to trick people into thinking that they are listening when they aren’t.
I’ve noticed that there are about four different levels of listening.
THE FOUR LEVELS OF LISTENING
The lowest level of listening is to completely Ignore the speaker. We all fall into this trap from time to time, such as when we are in a boring meeting and our mind wanders.
The second level of listening is when we Pretend to listen, but we are really just looking for an opportunity to end the conversation or change the subject.
The third level of listening is when we Selectively listen (mainly out of self-interest.) When we listen at this level, we will practically ignore the other person unless they are talking about something that directly concerns us.
Selective listeners will sometimes listen just enough to form an opinion or a rebuttal. They tend to interrupt a lot and give advice.
When we move into this level of listening, a lot of times, we do so to speed up the listening process. But for the most part, this type of listening can slow down the communication process giving us a negative result.
The highest level of listener is the Attentive or Focused listener. This person ignores all distractions and focuses totally on the speaker.
In any given conversation, we will typically slip from one of these types of listening levels to another. The key is to get our minds off ourselves and onto the other person.
If we are genuinely interested in the other person – if we really care about the other person – we will automatically spend more time in the focused listening level.