In our ongoing section Basics of networking, we have already discussed an important networking skill of Speaking. This time we are going to talk about its opponent – listening. Indeed, these two skills are on different sides of the scale because you can do one simultaneously with the other. Even though speaking is very important, the skill of listening is the key to a successful business conversation. Rephrasing a famous proverb, “Speech is silver and listening is golden.” How good can you listen to your interlocutor will eventually determine how good will you pay attention to your clients’ needs. So please don’t just hear what people say. Turn on the conscience and listen.
Have you found yourself in the situation when someone is talking and you are thinking about what you are going to say next or worse, what are you going to have for dinner? People these days process too much information all at the same time and it is hard to concentrate on one thing. That is exactly what you need to do. Be in the moment and focus on the meaning of the words you hear. Practice active listening.
Best ways to show you are paying attention.
Phrases like: “Let me see if I got this correctly” or “So you are saying …” are a great way to reassure your interlocutor that you are here with him/her. The way our brain works, you will also remember the subject better if you repeat the information out loud. To avoid sounding like a parrot, you can paraphrase the idea.
- Ask to clarify.
Phrases like: Hang on, what do you mean by…? Or “can you elaborate on…” will help you if you have lost the though and not following. Don’t feel stupid, it is better to ask now than regret later.
- Ask more questions.
Active listening entitles getting deeper into subject vs. just nodding at the right moment. Questions should be open-ended.
- Do not interrupt. Never.
It is rude and may also disrupt the thought process in the opponent’s head.
- Verbal and non-verbal cues.
Things like nodding, eye contact, and body posture as well as affirmations like “I see”, “I know”, “Sure” are powerful tools to make conversation lively, but don’t make it mechanic.
By using these techniques you will be able to redirect your attention from voices in your head to the person you are having a conversation with. One of the networking goals is to create rapport. Active listening is a great skill that will help you achieve just that – this is networking basics. Now get on it!