I meet few people who claim to be below-average listeners, but in our most candid moments we probably all admit to ourselves that listening is a great skill that we probably could do better. Why? The answer is easy – listening has a great effect on our job performance.
If you cannot listen, you cannot learn, and if you cannot listen, you cannot communicate well. Although all of us are besieged with noise and distractions throughout the work day, we must find ways to listen well in order to be effective proposal professionals. Paradoxically, because there is so much talking at work, there also are ample opportunities to listen well too.
Here are seven ways to practice being a better listener that are based on the advice of Travis Bradberry, a bestselling author about communication and emotional intelligence:
1. Focus: focus less on what you are going to say next and more on what the other person is saying. Your thoughts can be very distracting.
2. Put down the cell phone: many of us are tethered to our cell phones throughout the day, which makes listening well difficult. When you have a conversation, focus on the person talking, not on your cell phone.
3. Ask good questions: the best way to show that you are attentive and caring is to ask good questions based on what others have said. The best questions are those that verify what you have heard by asking for more information.
4. Practice reflective listening: by using your own words to interpret the speaker’s words, you indicate that you are attentive and absorbing the information being conveyed to you.
5. Use positive body language: gestures, tone of voice, and expressions indicate that you are following the conversation.
6. Avoid judgement…for now: when you listen to someone, you must be open-minded to absorb what they are saying. There will be plenty of time later to sift through the conversation and evaluate it.
7. Close your mouth: my mother used to tell me that the less I said, the more intelligent I sounded. Interrupting or hijacking the conversation makes good listening impossible.
The great pianist Alfred Brendel once said that the “word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” In music, playing the rests is an important as playing the notes.
One way to become a better proposal professional is to cultivate the art of listening better. That goes for me…and for you.