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3 Ways to Practice Listening

6 Mar

If you like being heard, you are in the right place!  You, like most people, like being heard when you are talking.  And not only that, you also like to be understood.  And that is where the art of listening comes into play.

It sounds counterintuitive to say that it takes a good listener to make a good conversation, but believe me when I say that it’s true.  (Are you listening?)

Customer Service has been my department of work for the last eight years.  I’ve talked with business men and women, moms and dads, kids, grandparents, hobbyists, enthusiasts, know-it-alls, and everyone in between.  I’ve answered hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and I’ve put forth my best effort to provide the best customer service.  And at the end of the day, you know what makes my customer service great??  Listening.

This afternoon I called a customer.  The reason for my call was a bill that was due.  The gentleman on the other end of the line answered in a friendly manner.  I told him the reason for my call.  Well, that did not go over well.  He proceeded to get mad at me for poor customer service from our collective department.  And so I listened.  He asked me insulting questions to which I gathered my breathe and answered in the kindest way I could without sounding smarmy or letting on that he was being rude.  I told him I would handle getting his account taken care of, apologized for his poor experiences and we ended our phone call on a positive note.

It wasn’t my fast typing skills or my mean mouse navigating skills that made my customer breathe a little easier when he hung up the phone.  It was that I listened to his complaint, acknowledged his frustration, apologized and fixed the problem.  Happy camper?  Yes.

The point of my sharing that story was to bring home the point of this post – 3 ways to practice listening:

  1. Become interested in the speaker.  If you are not interested in the speaker, you are not going to be interested in what they have to say.  Their words will become mumbo jumbo and you will not remember what they said.
  2. Don’t take it personally.  Was I offended that the customer insulted me for something that wasn’t my fault?  Eh, I let it roll off because I figured that he was not only upset with previous service.  He was probably using me as an easy target to air his grievances from something else that was bothering him.  Okay, fine, I’ll give him a pass.  That’s part of my job (and yours too if you are interested in becoming a good listener.)
  3. Put yourself in their shoes.  You like to be heard.  We all do.  When you talk, you want the listener to process your words.  Not just inhale your words and breathe them back out again without a second thought.  Become absorbed in what the other person is saying, and their method of driving their point home.  Do they use jokes, rhetoric, or monotone?  Do they use humor and stories?  Do they share personal experiences?  Gather the words, put them in your pocket, and don’t let them get away.  When talking person-to-person, look the other person in the eye.  It engages their heart.  People experience a sense of importance when someone else looks them in the eye when they are talking.  It shows respect.  And everyone deserves respect.

Finally, dear reader, I challenge you to this: Listen deeply to the words you hear today.  What is the person saying?  How can you listen better?  How can you empathize?  And better yet?  What are they saying that you can pray about for them?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People


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