We all hear and we all listen but there is a big difference between the two in quality and quantity. When we hear, we hear words. When we are not paying attention, we hear sound. If we look attentive, we can often get away with not listening, but listening gives us and the person we are talking to something far greater.
When we listen, we listen for tone and inflection and we see expression. We pick up feelings and intent, especially if we listen well. We can even pick up when the words we hear are not sincere or heartfelt.
Listening is an art and a great skill. If we learn to listen well, we can get to the heart of the matter. The words we use also count. The well known phrase “Treat others as you want to be treated” applies in all situations in business and in our personal lives.
Here are some tips to know when to be silent and when to speak especially in working with existing and potential clients:
- Talk when you have something to offer that the other person wants to hear.
- Listen when someone has something to tell you and needs to talk.
- Talk when you need to express yourself and the time is right.
- Listen first in a new situation. Assess the environment and speak when you can contribute to the topic or have an example to share.
- Set up appointments to talk when you know others have a busy schedule.
- When calling, ask the person if this is a good time to talk. Don’t launch into an in-depth conversation when they were not expecting the call.
I have learned that people tend to listen when the spoken words have meaning for them, and shut down when others talk too much, too fast, are repetitious and say things that are not of interest. Interestingly enough, listening well is how we learn what to say and how to say it.
Silence is golden and so is speech, especially when it’s balanced and meets the needs of both the giver and the receiver.