This is a scene from Pulp Fiction. Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace asks John Travolta as Vincent Vega an interesting question.
We try to be good listeners, but we also want to be able to respond with a meaningful answer. While the person in front of us is speaking, we're not giving him our full attention. Instead, we're thinking about what we want to say and looking for the right moment to add our thoughts. Some people won't even wait for the person to finish speaking and jump right in and start talking. ( I call those people, husbands). The truth is we're all guilty of doing this. We don't mean to be rude; many times, we're just anxious to join the conversation. Learning to be present and giving the other person your undivided attention reaps great rewards.
In business, relationships form when there is mutual respect. A big part of making that happen is actively listening to the customer. No one wants to feel bullied or cajoled into buying. We want to think that the person offering their product or service has our best interests at heart. When I sold wine and spirits to restaurants, the buyers always said the same thing to me. " Thank you for paying attention to what products I wanted. I don't appreciate it when salespeople ignore my requests." Yes, I had quotas to fill, but they still had to match what my customers needed. Instead of trying to give a lengthy sales pitch, I realized my best technique would be to listen. I was able to gain more insight into their thought process and be a more effective salesman. When I was a buyer, being quiet was my tool when it came to negotiating. Staying silent while someone goes through their various pricing levels gives us leverage. They're not sure what we're thinking, which makes them worried that we may not buy. They may drop the price before taking the chance of losing a sale.
In social relationships, being attentive to what our friends and family are saying will help us understand them better. We tend to step over them because we think we know where the conversation is heading. It causes frustration when we don't give them the time to complete their thought. Many disagreements happen when we don't let the other person fully communicate their feelings, ideas, or views on a subject. Sometimes we take offense before we have entirely listened to the other person's opinion. Keep in mind that we all need to be able to speak our minds without interruption. Our loved ones don't always need a solution for their worries, but they do need to give it a voice. When we feel heard, we feel loved.
Here are three tips to be a better listener.
- Practice mindfulness. Be present when you're having a conversation with someone. Put your phone away and have eye contact. Breathe and relax your shoulders. Your attention span will stay energized.Â
- When it's your turn to talk, acknowledge what the other person said by repeating a few of their words. This way, you can clarify any misunderstandings. It also lets the other person know that you are genuinely interested.
- Ask questions. Having a conversation with someone is an opportunity to learn something new. Be open to hearing another point of view. Our experiences make up our perceptions, and when we can share that, we let each other in on how we think.
We live in a fast-paced technology-filled world. It's great to be able to slow down and have worthwhile conversations. I enjoy hearing other people's stories and gaining a new understanding of them. The more we share our experiences, the more we learn from each other. Success in business, as well as, social relationships relies on strong communication skills. Listening is a crucial part of it.
Next time you're having a meeting, be aware of how much you talk compared to how much you are listening. You may be surprised, or you may be my husband.