By Tami Bonnell, CEO, EXIT Realty Corp. International
In real estate, our livelihood depends on how well we talk to people, but more than that, it depends on how well we listen. Journalist Celeste Headlee, said, “There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention, if you are in fact paying attention.” Being present, and really listening without interrupting, asking thoughtful, open-ended questions really helps you to understand the person in front of you.
One school of thought teaches how to mirror the body language of another person to demonstrate that you’re engaged. I love Ms Headlee’s quote because I honestly believe that if you’re actively listening, you don’t have to demonstrate you’re actively listening, they’ll be able to tell. They’ll be able to feel that connection. I do think it’s important to make eye contact when you’re speaking, and make sure that you’re aware and concise. I think it’s important to be aware of the other person’s body language, not to figure out how to mirror it, but to look for signs of their receptivity. Do they feel like you’re actively listening and paying attention? Do they seem concerned, angry or frustrated?
Before I have a conversation with someone, I focus on what I want the end result to be – not necessarily the contract I’m hoping we’ll sign but rather that I really heard and understood their position with a goal of creating an action plan for how we can move forward and keep discussions open to achieve a win/win. When you’re actively listening to someone, it’s not a confrontation; it’s listening to understand, not to figure out what you want to say next.
In my opinion, social media has created in many people an urge to instantly respond. And, man, do I wish there was a pause button on hitting send for Facebook, emails and texts! I wish a flashing message would appear that asks, “Are you really sure you want to send this?” Even “listening” on social media requires pause and consideration before replying. If someone is lashing out on social media, we don’t have to take it personally or respond at all. We have no idea what’s going on in another person’s life and perhaps their comments have nothing to do with us, yet, we see a lot of knee-jerk, judgmental responses. I strongly believe we’re all connected to one another and we can take a step back and listen; let the other person express their thoughts and feelings. When we ask, “Help me understand what’s going on in your world,” and they tell us, instead of jumping in with tales of our own experiences, simply let them talk. You can follow up with, “Help me understand” and “Tell me more.” Listening, even on social media, isn’t about you, it’s about them.
From a business standpoint, I don’t believe anyone ever listened their way out of a job or a sale. They might have talked their way out of a job or a sale, they might have talked their way out of a friendship, but they probably didn’t listen their way out. Listening is a skill like any other and if you want to improve your listening skills, ask your trusted advisors how you can improve. And then listen.