“Listening is an act of love. When you listen to people, you are communicating non-verbally that they are important to you.” – Jim George
Nelson Mandela’s father was the chief of his native tribe in Africa. Mandela spoke about how his father was always the last to speak. He knew that if he – being the leader – would be the first to speak – the others would likely not share their thoughts.
People want to be heard. They want to contribute. If you want to build a successful business, be the last to speak. You’ll learn so much from those around you that – who knows…your views and thoughts about how to move forward on projects may change for the better when you listen.
Active listening requires a few key components.
- Turn off your phone or put it away when you’re talking with someone. It’s rude to be on your phone when you’re supposed to be engaged in conversation with someone else. I have taken off the notifications on my phone and watch so I don’t get distracted with buzzes and dings. If you have to have your phone with you (i.e., waiting to hear an important piece of news or whatnot), let that person know what’s up so they don’t feel unimportant.
- Don’t interrupt. I know we sometimes get excited or anxious when you’re having tough conversations, but it’s imperative that you allow someone to communicate their COMPLETE message before you respond.
- If you don’t understand the message being communicated, repeat back facts and information for clarification.
- Show you’re engaged with conversation through body language. Smile, look at your partner, nod every so often, and keep your arms uncrossed.
- Ask thoughtful questions and be willing to be vulnerable and provide meaningful feedback during your conversation. We all love to talk about our past experiences and educate others about who we are and why we do the things we do. I truly believe that by asking insightful questions, you’re showing the other person that you’re listening and genuinely are interested in their life.
Actively listening is not about being ‘right or wrong’ regarding how you feel about a certain topic…it’s about the willingness to listen and engage. It truly is the key to develop rich, long-lasting relationships.
PRO TIP: Just be yourself
We can talk all day long about values and connecting with others, but at the same time, the only way you’ll be fulfilled and successful is to be your true, authentic self. I know this sounds so cheesy, but I’m telling you people can sniff out a wanna-be in a New York minute.
I’ve been in situations when I was sitting across the table from people who graduated Harvard and worked at prestigious places. It made me feel insecure at times too…just being honest. But, what I noticed is that the times when I would try to be someone I’m not…I ended up falling flat on my face. So, take a deep breath, relax, pull yourself together and be authentic. Those who gravitate to you because you’re the real deal – they are your people. Those who don’t – well, they were the wrong client in the first place.