How to prioritize listening among your workforce

With the onslaught of messaging and other noise assailing us daily, it takes diligent effort to focus on what other people—colleagues and clients alike—have to say. Consider this advice.

Listening is one of the most valuable skills an employee can cultivate.

Good listeners accept feedback and engage more meaningfully with colleagues and customers. A community that prioritizes listening over talking will inevitably grow stronger over time.

Why do so few businesses prioritize listening in the workplace? For one thing, media bombardment has overwhelmed most people, who simply tune out the incessant noise of commercials and telemarketers.

Because of this constant distraction, it requires diligence to move toward a mindset of active listening. For businesses especially, it’s well worth the effort.

When two people converse, good listening skills benefit them both. The listener (or employee) learns more information and feels more relaxed. The speaker (or client/consumer) has the comfort that comes with really being heard, even if there’s not full agreement.

Listening goes beyond sound; pay attention to the speaker’s body language. Hand movements and facial expressions convey extra information and provide context for the speaker’s statements.

With this comes using your own body language to communicate with customers.

If you’re crossing your arms or leaning away from your client, they’ll perceive that you’re not really listening to them. To convey interest, you should lean forward, nod your head, smile, keep your body open and not closed off, and maintain relaxed eye contact.

Also, never interrupt the speaker. After the other person stops talking, pause a full second before speaking. It shows you truly do care and are paying attention to them.

Don’t stop with your own habits. If you want listening to be a core principle of your business, spread the message companywide—through workshops or pamphlets.

Build listening into your company’s workflow. Create a “no interruption” rule that applies to all dialogue during work hours. Ask employees to write down at day’s end one or two interesting things they heard during the day. Hold feedback sessions where managers listen to employee concerns and ideas.

Better listening will improve the flow of information. When information spreads fluidly, the organization becomes stronger.

Better listening habits also will improve staffers’ interactions with clients and customers, building rapport and helping them anticipate and meet consumers’ needs. All this will help retain your customers .

Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in marketing and sales.

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