By Louise Loxton - Head of Department, Employer Relationships

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The A-m-a-z-i-n-g Power of Listening

our weekly blog on the whats, whys and hows of amazing Employability.

It is too easy in today’s world to just focus on ourselves and our own agenda when dealing with other people. However, real relationship building in business occurs when you listen to each other. So, put aside that mobile phone for a moment and give one another your full attention. As Bryant H. McGill says: "One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say."

Being a good listener is a key communication skill. It is a kind of ‘superpower’, which can benefit you in many ways on your employability journey. Here are my three top tips: 

1) Listen more than you speak

We have two ears but just one tongue, so we are better equipped and well advised to listen more than we speak. When listening we should also pay attention to how our conversation partner uses language and voice to convey their message – changes in tone, for example, can contain so-called ‘non-verbal messages’, telling us how someone really feels, even if the words they choose mean the opposite. Effective listening means being able to perceive and understand these messages.

If you are interested in a career in Sales or Customer Service, for example, you need to be a good listener. It is one thing to be able to deliver a Sales presentation eloquently, but quite another to be willing to listen to what a potential customer really needs, any concerns they might have about your product or service and anything they are looking for in a business partner. When a customer feels heard and understood, the relationship you have with them will be more solid and ultimately lead to more business for you and your company.

2) Listen without working on your response

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." (Stephen R. Covey).

Listening is an art. We should all practise listening without working on our response. Give the person opposite you your full attention and don’t feel uncomfortable when there’s a break in the conversation. People need silence to collect their thoughts, so don’t jump the gun and try to finish their sentences for them with what you think they want to say. You might miss something important. 

A good chance to practise this strategy is when listening to feedback. When we know we are about to receive criticism of some kind we can get very defensive and be ready with all sorts of responses. So, instead, listen until the end, take a breath, and then give your response. If you are worried about forgetting any points made, note them down (briefly) as you listen so that you can respond to everything when the speaker has finished. 

3) Listen actively

Listening is not a passive process. In fact, the listener can, and should be, at least as engaged in the process as the speaker. The phrase ‘active listening’ is used to describe this process of being fully involved. If you are interested in one of the caring professions, like counselling, you will need this skill. Active listeners use brief affirmations like “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” “Thank you,” or “I understand” and they nod to show understanding. Another technique is to paraphrase what the other person is saying (a kind of quick summary in your own words) to show you have understood.

And finally…

Good listeners are more productive in the work place and make fewer mistakes. Being a good listener is a top employability skill. Make sure it is part of your skillset.