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Listen up! What's Active Listening & Why it Matters to Your Business.

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

Podcasting is one of the largest growing segments in media. People listen to podcasts while they workout, while they cook dinner, while they commute and while they walk their dogs. With all this listening going on, you’d think that we’d be getting really good at listening right? Wrong.

With all the sounds and ideas and talking you hear on a daily basis, if anything people are getting better are passively listening - listening only for the details or cue words that you think specifically matter to you. Forgive us for sounding like your mother for a second: there is a difference between hearing and listening.

You might be hearing everything said to you, and you might be able to repeat it back, but did you really listen?

Now, let’s put this in a business scenario. Let’s say you’re negotiating with a potential client on price. While they’re voicing their objections, are you thinking about your response before they finish? Most people, especially in the context of a negotiation try to think a step or two ahead of the person they’re negotiating with.

You want to have control of the conversation and push the discussion in the direction you think it should go. This might be true, but taken too far, you end up not even listening to the person talking. You could be mentally glossing over important details that could help you better find common ground with your client. You’re making it harder for yourself!

Don’t do that. Make it easier on yourself and learn about what your client really needs by listening clearly and carefully to what they’re saying. Make it easier by learning to be an active listener.

Active listening is:

  • Making and maintaining eye contact with the speaker.

  • Tuning out distractions, stopping your mind from wandering and focusing entirely on what the speaker is saying.

  • Maintaining positive and open body language.

  • Concentrating on the speaker’s entire message - their body language included. The message they’re communicating might be more complex than the words they’re saying.

  • Not interrupting.

  • NOT preparing your response or a rebuttal while the speaking is speaking.

  • Responding appropriately and providing feedback specific to what was said.

Most people hear well, but aren’t able to listen fully which can be a major handicap, especially when you’re having important conversations and negotiations.

Take time to learn how to be an active listener in your everyday life with business partners, potential clients and customers, as well as with staff and colleagues. You’ll be surprised what you’ve been missing out on!

This is part of a continuing series on active listening in the workplace, titled "Listen Up!" A truly successful entrepreneur is an active listener - keep checking back each week to learn a new habit to form, and an old habit to break.

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