Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Listening Skills Pay Personal Dividends for Managers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Listening Skills Pay Personal Dividends for Managers

Article excerpt

The skill of listening seems to be one of the most under-used skills in management today. In a larger sense, listening is a part of total quality management and should be a key ingredient to a marketing plan so that an entire corporation is "listening" to its customers to know how to improve and beat the competition.

Listening on a personal level, as in one-on-one conversation in a business setting, is a skill to attain and value. Advanced listening skills pay personal dividends when you negotiate, administrate, make decisions and sell products.

If you know the other party's interests, feelings, concerns or reasons for his or her action, you can address each one in your strategy to win over or win out. But also important is the impression you can leave with the other party, the sense of "having been heard." This can be especially potent in a human resource situation and, alone, may solve a host of problems without further action needed.

How can you listen better? Here are a few suggestions: Demonstrate in your listening that you care about what the other person is saying.

Nod or give feedback such as "Mmmm." Repeat statements to convey that you are focused on the other person. Do not allow distractions to interfere with your listening.

Take the phone off the hook or refuse to accept calls. Put down other work, especially reading material. Look directly at the speaker. Don't jump to a conclusion without hearing the person out. Control your emotions even if you disagree with the words or the position the other person is taking.

The more you learn about where the person is coming from, the better you can handle the situation in a win-win fashion. Watch your facial expressions and body language to make sure they don't give your thoughts away. Notice cues in the speaker's voice and observe their body language for a discrepancy between the words being spoken and non-verbal messages. Look for caution in slow speech or the hint of nervousness in fast talk. Take a few notes. Writing down the discussion points helps you to concentrate on the main message and to remember the conversation better later. The speaker will tend to feel that you believe what is said is important.

Think about the flip side, too. Often you are the speaker rather than the listener. If you want to help the listener, or even to subliminally train the listener to listen better, be clear and think through what you are wanting to say.

Don't ramble. Come up for air. Let the listener do some responding. Remember, it pays to listen.

QUESTION: As a salesperson in a wholesale operation, I find I sometimes have trouble closing the sale. Do you have any suggestions which might help me?

ANSWER: It's hard to make a diagnosis without observing what you do in trying to close a sale, however, one common problem encountered by sales personnel is that they may talk around the issue of closing without ever actually asking for the business. …

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