Two ears, one mouth.

How developing your listening skills will improve your relationships.

I was always taught that communication was the greatest leadership skill you could ever have. If you can communicate well with people you will always be able to build relationships and lead people. Having read Dianne Schilling’s article ‘10 Steps to Effective Listening’ for Forbes.I realised that this is not necessarily true. Maybe it’s listening that is the most important leadership skill.

Listening to someone means that you are only concentrating on the words coming out of their mouth, not planning a response or opinion for when they stop to take a breath. How many times have you switched off in conversation because you are busy preparing a speech for your when its your turn to talk?

Listening to someone involves eye contact. This means that you are not looking at your phone or scrolling your emails. How many times have you been caught out with a question and you have no idea what the answer is because you were checking Instagram?

Listening is recapping the conversation, pointing out the ideas or part of the story you liked the most. Show the person that you understand what they have said, and you really care that they have said it. How many times have you felt like you have had a conversation with a brick wall for the amount that was heard?

Being a great listener can help you in people interactions every day. For instance, when your manager is giving you a task, listening to the whole conversation will ensure that you can ask the right questions at the end to help limit misunderstandings. This will help you to deliver the task correctly. Plus, they then see that you are interested in what they have to say and want to do a great job for them.

Listening to your team can help you run a better operation. If they know that they have a manager who will always listen to them they will return the favour and listen carefully when its your turn to talk. Also, you pick up lots of great information both business and personal which helps to develop colleague loyalty. If you can remember a family members name, a special date or holiday they will be touched that you remembered.

Ultimately, listening to your customer and clients will help you to provide the best service to them. Most of the time we feel that we need to talk to them and make the conversation. In fact, we can help them the most when we are silent. We just need to be able to trigger the conversation with a question. “How can I help?” rather than “Do you want help?” will trigger conversation rather than a polite “No”. Get them talking and really listen to what they want, it’s only then that we are providing excellent service.

This all needs to be coupled with great body language. Mirror the speaker’s facial expressions, smile and laugh when they do and sympathise with them when they are sad or distressed. Do not look vacant or bored otherwise they will cut the story short or stop talking instantly breaking that channel of communication.

I feel that in a world where everyone wants to be heard it’s the people who remain silent that will truly stand out.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” – Epictetus