The Listening Act

Have you ever used a transistor radio before, the kind that you have to turn a knob and place close to your ears in order to hear when the frequency you’re searching for has been reached? Oh! that could be very tedious; but unlike our digital radio in cars and phones which are common now, on these manual dial radios, if you are searching for 97.7FM, you have to be ‘needle-precise’ to really hear that station. A little shot of being right on that dial, all you hear is noise or very faint signals from that station.


Listening effectively is like tunning to the frequency of the person you are having that moment of talk with, not to your own frequency. It requires deliberately ‘searching’ for the wavelength on which they transmit: their language, accent, tone, pitch, rate, and very crucially, their emotion. Tunning to the frequency of the customer is one very vital thing to do in order to serve them well; you have to, and you need to in order to understand them, respond to them, resolve their complaints and make them happy. But being able to listen effectively is not a skill that is needed for customer relations alone, but in life interactions generally. A good listener carries a gift that draws everyone to him or her. Sometimes, people just need a sounding board on ideas and things that frustrate them. They may even want to share their excitement and aspirations, and good ears will always be a delight to have in such moments.

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To listen effectively, please practice and master the following:


Decide to listen: If you are not in the frame of mind to listen, you won’t. But while attending to a client, you MUST be in the frame of mind; therefore, you need to decide to listen. Don’t be preoccupied with your own message and advancing your own course. Whatever is important to you, you will make out the time for.


Develop your memory: Those who forget what others tell them to make people angry. The reason we have selective memory is because of the value we attach to a piece of information. If we get information about a business lead, we remember everything there is to remember such as name, address, time and so on. We attempt to dump it on a paper as quickly as possible if we are likely to forget. When we value our clients and associates, we value what they tell us and make effort to remember. We can improve our memory by memorizing quotations, axioms, number sequences and instructions. Also, commit messages into long-term memory by writing on paper, recording in computer, or voice recording on a phone.


Drop your listening filters: Excellent listeners are careful to subdue their prejudices and beliefs when listening to other people. They ensure that they assume a neutral position that allows them to gather information and act wisely like a pilot listening to the control tower during a storm or a doctor diagnosing a patient. Listening with a clean state of mind helps you grow your views and to gain insight.

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Listen with Compassion: Don’t be superior, hypercritical or aloof when you listen; rather get into the other person’s shoes. Relax and let it show that you are welcoming. Don’t give unnecessary verbal reassurances like “That’s alright, it’s natural to act that way”, “Well, don’t worry about it…”. This is tantamount to brushing the person’s feeling aside and questioning the person’s sense of judgment and emotional strength. Compassionate listening provides an atmosphere of acceptance where the speaker can lower defences and has enough emotional leeway to find their own solutions.


Let your body say so: A raised eyebrow, scowling mouth, glaring eyes, folded arms, distanced and angled body- all do not encourage people to open up and speak their mind. To show that you are listening, lean towards the speaker, stand face to face, tilt your head as if giving an ear, leave the thing you are doing and maintain eye contact.


Paraphrase, not Parrot: There is something called reflective listening. It suggests saying back to the speaker what he has said to show that you paid attention. However, it does not imply that you repeat what you hear verbatim, but rather, paraphrase it. Paraphrasing is putting the word as you understand it, and said in a clarifying manner, like: “If I understand you correctly, you are saying…”, “Am I hearing you right, you mean…”, “So to sum up then, you feel…”

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Respond to feelings, then respond to facts: When you listen, resist the urge to counsel or provide a solution immediately, rather, acknowledge the emotion/feeling uncovered from careful observation and attentiveness. This allows you to level up with the complainer or speaker as against taking the superior position of suggesting a solution or making the person feel he has to be gotten rid of quickly.


Listen to the end and do not interrupt: Interrupting, with a presumption that you understand just what the person is saying will kill the conversation and rob you of valuable clues that could be picked if you allowed the conversation to go on till the end.


Take notes: Especially when taking instruction from a boss, taking notes could be a very helpful aid to listening. Also do not be afraid to ask people to repeat what they said to be sure you got the right thing.


A good listener immediately creates a bond of connection; that connection is needed to render effective service. It creates a win-win-win situation for client, service personnel and the organization they work for.

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