13 Platinum Listening Ideas
Education spends more time teaching reading and writing than any other
Which is good ... the worlds people all need to read and to write.
Yet, from my very unscientific and still thorough study, close to zero
time, or money, is invested teaching how to listen. At least at the school
level. Anywhere on earth. Anywhere! It is "assumed" if you hear, you listen.
Let's define listening. It has three steps;
1).Hearing the sounds, the words, and then
2). Understanding and interpreting what you have just heard, finally
3).Responding to those words, those sounds.
Listening is a basic survival skill. If you can't listen, you can't learn.
A study at the University of Minnesota showed that 60% of business mis-understanding
is due to poor listening. And a big 80% of all communications must be
repeated - must be repeated - must be repeated. No big surprise here to
those of us in marketing.
I am not a listening teacher or coach. I'm not really sure how
you learn how to listen. I do know it takes concentration. Effort. Some
are very good at listening - others not at all.
Some great talkers are great listeners. They have the ability to talk
- and know when and how to listen. Others, who are quiet by nature, are
not good listeners ... their mind is elsewhere most of the time. Not paying
attention, not listening, not understanding, not responding.
Successful marketing happens when you listen to your marketplace. There
are countless stories of companies making moves because their audience
told them so. Yes, you still need to repeat your message - repeat your
message - repeat your message. Most of that repetition is because there
are so many who don't know how to listen. They don't get it the first
So, what are the 13 most important marketing listening ideas?
Listening Idea #1: You can hear a lot just be listening
God gave us two ears and only one mouth. There must be a message here
- however subtle.
What I think this says is you should listen twice as much as you talk.
There are studies with sales people and telemarketers that prove this
philosophy works. Those that listen best and longest do far better. Strange
as it may seem, those who "talk and sell" the most in fact sell the least.
Here's a quote from that wise soul Anonymous;
"In one day Sampson slew 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
Every day 10 million sales are killed with the same weapon."
There is power in keeping your mouth shut. In not talking.
Listen to your customer - listen to your prospect. Listen to your audience.
Listen to your marketplace.
Listening Idea #2: Listen to the others persons story
Listen to the others persons story.
Listen to the other persons FULL story.
Listen to the other persons full story FIRST.
And then pause ... for at least 3 seconds. Maybe more.
No matter the issue, the problem, the situation, the opportunity, the
timing or place, this concept holds. It is guaranteed to give you the
upper hand to resolve anything difficult.
Why? Well, because frequently the other person needs nothing more than
to "dump". They need a listener. That will do it for them. Whatever
happens afterwards is not nearly as important as that someone cared enough
Listening Idea #3: SHUT UP!
Often it is better to stay quiet than to open your mouth and remove all
doubt of your inability. Or knowledge.
This is not to stay you must always stay quiet. Of course not. Many times
not only do you have something to say that will be a benefit - you are
responsible. Others expect you to express your opinion - to make a decision.
Still, there are times when shutting up is the answer. As former US Secretary
of State Dean Rusk said;
"One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears - by listening
Yes, sometimes listening is the best way to express yourself.
Listening Idea #4: Ask Questions ... and then SHUT UP!
Yes, these two points go together. There is a time to be vocal. There
is a time to talk, to inquire, to question. And there is a time to be
For whatever reason you may have a question. Something is not clear.
Something is totally unknown. An idea needs expansion. A concept needs
review. You disagree with the point being made and want to learn more.
For almost any reason, you have a question.
Asking questions is a good way to begin to teach yourself how to listen.
Especially if you'll, once you've asked, SHUT UP! ... and listen to the
Listening Idea #5: Think like the talker
And listen to what that person is really saying.
When you're face-to-face watch for signs and expressions that tell you
what the talker really means. What they are probably thinking. Which is
not always what their words say. As words don't say things ... people
do. Know what the talker is really saying.
Feelings and ideas are frequently difficult, or uncomfortable, to express.
Hand signals, voice pitch, speaking speed, facial changes are all ways
of "talking". When you learn to "read" these signals, you then become
a truly good listener.
When you're listening remotely it can be more difficult. Body language
isn't there. Still, everything with the voice is. Listen and learn.
Thinking like the talker is something like "reading between the lines".
Listening Idea #6: Eliminate distractions ... and concentrate
Sometimes this is easier said then done. There is "stuff" happening around
you and you still need to listen.
Plus, distractions slow concentration ... which makes listening difficult
at best. And sometimes impossible.
Recently I had a radio interview scheduled with the owner of a series
of biker restaurants and bars. Places this guy "created" for special events
at special places for special times. He agreed to talk - I showed up at
the appointed time, tape recorder in hand, ready to go to work.
His place was so busy and so noisy he suggested a venue change: into
the beer locker! Where only cases upon cases of cold brew awaited a bus
boys trolley to move into place. It was quiet - we were alone - the interview
worked wonderfully well.
The noise issue here was quick to solve. Sometimes you won't have an
option this available and easy. Yet, know, if there are distractions,
both the talker and the listener will find it difficult - if not impossible
- to concentrate.
Listening Idea #7: Take notes
To listen is not to take a test. Or, if it is, it is an open book exam.
Where you use your reference material.
Ditto with listening. Take notes! It's not optional - it is mandatory.
At least I think so. If there is not a piece of paper, there is not an
issue. There is no problem. And for certain, nothing will happen. I will
do nothing without a note. Period. Period!
Don't ever think because you've told me I've heard ... and understood.
In fact - "assume" the opposite; "assume" you do have to repeat
the message. And know you must get feedback to be assured I did in fact
What this says is I believe in taking notes. Even the very best use notes.
Great speech makers always have notes. They'll tell you it's because they
want to be 100% prepared ... if anything happens, they have paper to reference.
Watch the best interviewers - they use notes.
This same concept applies to listening. When you're listening, take notes.
Listening Idea #8: Expand your attention span
The brain works 4 times faster than most people speak. Your brain can
absorb about 600 words a minute. The average speaker goes at 150 words/minute.
What does this mean? It means you have 75% of your mind and brain available
to do something other than listen. And ... you do just that! You do something
other than listen.
Everyone does. You. Me. The guy next door and the one around the corner.
The gal sitting next to you in your office. Your mother. Your college
room mate. Your best friend. Your doctor, your lawyer, your butcher.
No wonder you must repeat the message!
How can you expand your listening capability? As shared earlier, do the
hard work of concentration. Crawl into the other persons shoes. Think
like they think. Make listening a project - more than just an activity.
Speed reading allows you to go through paper at a faster clip. You can
increase your attention span the same way. Listen in bits and bites. Grab
the words that mean something. The details. Itemize. When you do you will
be expanding your capability to listen, understand and respond.
Listening Idea #9: Avoid jumping to conclusions - with your mind
... or your mouth
Jumping is easy to do. As you do listen faster than anyone can speak.
It's tempting to jump ahead ... and "assume" where this conversation is
Don't do it.
I learned to be careful about "assuming" when I had a stutterer for a
client. Early on I learned to sit ... and wait. And wait. And wait! Most
often where I was going Fred was not. When he got there, I needed to be
there. The best way to be there involved keeping my mouth shut. And keeping
my mind open ... listening.
How do younot jump? You concentrate. You don't need to know one
who stutters to understand how easy it is to be quicker as a thinker than
your messenger can ever speak. Focus - and you'll be a better listener.
Listening Idea #10: Still, be an active listener
Listening is a two way street. If someone is sharing an idea, a thought,
a concept, expressing an opinion, voicing a complaint - they "expect"
you to be listening. And they need you to inter-act. To exchange. To come
back to them. They need feed-back.
Making "sounds" helps you be active. Sounds such as "yes", "oh", "I see"
, "that's interesting", "I understand", "could you say that again" ...
even a grunt, "ay so" and "uh-huh" help you listen. You become a part
of the exchange.
You repeat what the talker says ... so you understand AND the speaker
agrees. You paraphrase for the same reason. These "actions" keep you involved.
As you must truly "see" what is happening so you think like the talker.
This makes you a better listener.
What's the benefit of active listening? It keeps you in charge.
Even when the other person is doing most of the talking - you are still
leading the conversation. If it's a compliment - you keep the enthusiasm
up. If it's a complaint - you keep everyone calm.
Listening Idea #11: Never interrupt
Even thou it can be difficult, you must let the speaker speak the way
they wish. Interrupting does nothing except throw them off pace - and
you both loose.
It can be boring, uninteresting, in a monotone. The story can be taking
twice or thrice the time it should to share. Still, to be a good listener,
you should not interrupt.
And not be one of those folks who feel listening means impatiently waiting
for a place to insert "that reminds me."
Earlier I mentioned notes. Having notes for reference, and taking notes.
Notes help you listen ... they help you avoid going someplace else. They
keep you on track. Focused. And notes help prevent interruption, too.
Why? Because they offer you direction - and they give you something to
Another benefit: when the conversation wonders, notes allow you to bring
it back to where it belongs. Still, without interruption.
Listening Idea #12: Be prepared to talk
When the conversation is "new" , the first on this particular topic,
you may not be ready. Because you didn't know this was going to happen.
Yet, most times what we do today follows what we did yesterday, and the
day before. And leads to where we're going tomorrow. Meaning, we have
a history - and we have a direction. Plus, we know this exchange is going
to happen - it's scheduled.
When you prepare to talk - to be active - to question - to listen ...
a good idea is to have an outline of where you have been. And where you
want to go. How you got to where you are with this subject. And an idea
on how to get where you headed.
Why an outline? Because it will give you a better idea where this trail
is going. Maybe not exactly - yet, enough to get you on the same path
from the beginning.
A good listener needs to be prepared to talk.
Listening Idea #13: PRACTICE ... Practice ... practice
A great violinist once said; "If I miss practice for a day, I know it.
If I miss for two days the critics know it. If I miss for three days the
audience knows it."
Bingo for listening.
As with any skill, practice is key to learning how to listen. It is work.
The same as everything else. From learning how to cook or play the piano,
to playing basketball or learning a software program, to fixing a dripping
faucet ... you only get better when you work at it. Reading "how to ...
"in a book is fine - it is not practice - it is not learning. Watching
someone else do it may give you the idea - you don't "get it" until you
do it. Until you practice.
The same reality applies to listening. And since only perfect practice
makes perfect - practicing over and over again and again is what it takes
to get good at listening.
Wilson Mizner said;
"A good listener is not only popular everywhere,
but after a while he knows something."
When you truly know how to listen, you will also really know something.