Making money with your ears

Almost everyone sincerely believes that they listen effectively. Very few people think they need to develop their listening skills.  Most of us are terrible listeners. We’re such poor listeners, that we don’t know how much we’re missing by not honing this skill.  It’s not because listening effectively is so difficult. It’s that most of us have never developed the habits that make us effective listeners.

One of my mentors gave me a gift I never forgot. She told me to “listen so people will speak and speak so people will listen.” What I heard was that I every time I speak, my words must be for the betterment of the conversation and to allow others to feel comfortable and heard. I then set out on a personal listening experiment that altered my life and increased my income.

Sundays at church I have the pleasure of watching a gentleman interpret the entire service using sign language. From time to time I gaze over at him in awe of his skill.  I watch his long hands move with ease and grace as he listens intently and articulates the message to the deaf parishioners. One service something dawned on me and got me thinking how people who use sign language communicate in the complete opposite way of how hearing people communicate.

Here is what I discovered. Each signer typically waits for the other person to stop signing before they answer. They have to. How else can you really understand unless they’re allowed to finish their thought with their hands? People who hear tend to jump in mid-way to add our thoughts and inject our point without giving the other person time to finish. We make assumptions about what is being or what will be said.  That often leads to someone not feeling validated and heard. In signing, most of the time, each person has to give each other their full attention without much interruption. They give each other the sweetest gift; complete understanding. They are listening for clarity without interrupting or making assumptions.

It got me thinking. What if salespeople treated their customers that way? Listened intently to what was being shared and gained a full understanding of what was being said. What if I started doing that when I was listening to someone?  Could I listen at a deeper level that I was not accustomed to? Could I open my ears and shut my mouth?  Was that possible for a talkative person like me?  I knew if I was going to suggest you to do this, I had to try it out for myself.

Turns out, my listening experiment was not as easy as I thought. In fact, it was hard work and I became quite frustrated with myself for not being able to resist my urge to respond.  I had the answer and didn’t feel like waiting. It happened over and over and was not sure I could pull this off. I was determined to learn a new lesson and hone this business altering skill. I picked a day where I knew would be around many people who would be asking me questions. I set out committed to give everyone I listened with my undivided attention. I heard their words, listened to what they were saying and gave them my full attention.

It’s sounds easy, but wait until you try it for yourself.  I don’t know how many times my teeth were biting my bottom lip in an effort to resist the urge to talk. I managed to keep my ears open and my mouth shut.  I resisted my natural impulse to jump in and assume.  I’m happy to report it can be done. Though unhappy to report I still slip up and haven’t mastered this difficult skill.  It was the hardest experiment to date for me and it is one I shall never forget. I felt more connected with each person I listened to because I know they sensed the gift I gave them. I listened to them. I discovered a new asset in my business; my ears. My ears were a big part of how I made my living and grew my business.

What I discovered in the process of attempting to become a better listener was, although it was tough in the beginning to open my ears and shut my mouth, in the end the rewards were sweet. It felt good to know that when I gave someone my full attention, I felt good in the process. Win-win. I know I gave them what others are unwilling or unable to give. I challenge you to try this listening experiment. It is life altering.

Categories: Sales & Marketing