As you become a pro at listening, the responses you give during the conversation would be much more empathetic, helping you open closed doors
Do you want to get through to somebody but unable to? Is that making you mad? Probably there is an angry team member, defiant executive, disgruntled customer, or maybe your 'ex.' You are not alone. All of us spend our lives persuading someone or the other for a promotion, to sell, get a job or a contract. But when you have the best logic, perfect presentation, and well-prepared arguments, why do you fail to get through?
In this time of heavy usage of social media and conversing via chat applications, it is easy to lose sight of what really connects us to one another. And that is, empathy. Since we love talking, and almost hate listening, it leads to a gap in the level of connection that might actually happen otherwise. Not all great leaders are great speakers, but all of them are empathetic listeners. They understand that a conversation takes both the speaker and listener through several emotional cycles. Mark Goulsten in his book, Just Listen, explains what he calls 'persuasion cycle' and suggests speaking with others in a manner that moves them: from resisting to listening; from listening to considering; from considering to willing to do; from willing to do to doing; from doing to glad they did and continuing to do. He says that you get through to anyone by having their buy-in. And the easiest route to get the buy-in you are looking for, is through empathy.
Empathetic listening is about experiencing the feelings, thoughts, situation, and emotions of the other person during a conversation. It shows that you care, and the other person can sense it, resulting in an increased trust and comfort in communicating. It brings out what is really on people's minds by cutting through the superficiality of conversation. Now this is easier said than done because of our natural inclination towards mind reading when we converse. We tend to listen attentively when we hear something that interests us and shut down attention towards the rest, sometimes referred to as 'distracted listening,' and that leads to discounting what is being said.
And if you feel that yours is a bigger problem, while you listen to someone, think for a moment how hostage negotiators use empathetic listening to manage life-threatening situations. Almost all of their conversation revolves around those who are defiant. Then how do they get through their message? 'Listening is the cheapest concession we can ever make,' writes former FBI chief hostage negotiator, Gary Noesner in his book, Stalling for Time. And when you have a question, a soothing voice can be immensely helpful.
While this may sound complicated, most people are craving for someone to listen to them. Talk about their interests and hear them out when they speak. Without judging, or interrupting them. You may think of yourself as confident and passionate when you interrupt, but could just as easily be seen by the other person as arrogant and impulsive. The key is to be patient and focus on the feelings behind what the other person is saying.
Poor listening skills are not easy to change and there might be a certain learning curve involved. Through empathetic listening you can turn unreachable people in your life into allies, devoted customers, loyal colleagues, and lifetime friends. As you become a pro at listening, the responses you give during the conversation would be much more empathetic, helping you open closed doors. And who knows, even closed hearts.
Ritu Kant Ojha is author & CEO of Proact