Listening as a Tool for Improving Business Relationships
Corrinne Graham, WE NYC Mentor

“No man ever listened himself out of a job.” — President Calvin Coolidge

I’ll go a bit further to say “Nor does one listen oneself out of a client.” Or do we?

Listening is a challenge for all of us at times. Although we don’t intend to ignore people, not listening can have serious financial implications as well as other undesirable side effects such as:

  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a client
  • Liability
  • Estranged relationships

We all listen differently depending on the environment, the situation and our own comfort level and confidence. In a world of information overload, how do we hone and tune our listening skills to sharpen our focus on our customers, families, friends, colleagues, employees and employers?

I believe we each have unique listening abilities. To be a good listener, however, it is important to step outside of your comfort zone and learn to put yourself in the shoes of the person who is trying to deliver the message.  After all, can you remedy problems or provide possible solutions if you miss the message?

To be a good listener it is important to step outside of your comfort zone and learn to put yourself in the shoes of the person who is trying to deliver the message.

Corrinne Graham

How do you get the person you’re talking with to fully engage and tune in to your suggestions? Listening is key: don’t jump to conclusions; pay attention and get the facts. Just because you’ve seen similar situations a hundred times doesn’t means there’s a one-size-fits-all answer.

If you remain neutral, balanced and present in the moment with your clients, you will hear their concerns and your intuitive and creative side will start to provide possible solutions and ideas about how to approach an initiative or challenge.

I want to share two stories that illustrate the role of listening in relationships.

When a colleague of mine decided to start his own business, he met with a potential client. He pitched the company’s insurance and financial services manager and observed the potential client’s non-verbal communication cues. The client’s eyes showed no interest. However, once my colleague shared the other aspect of his business idea, fractional HR services, he had the potential client’s full attention and was able to retain the company as a client. His business has grown by leaps and bounds because he listened carefully.

The other story is a more personal one. One evening when my nephew and niece were visiting, I was having a conversation in my mind as I often do with those three great companions we all know — me, myself and I — trying to resolve a trying work situation. I was rather frustrated by a business partner’s unprofessionalism, which I suspected and anticipated but was not prepared to resolve with a quick solution. My nephew quickly realized my frustration.

“Aunty Corrinne,” he asked, “Who are you mad at?”

I replied, “Myself.”

He responded, “Seriously, Aunty Corrinne!” He was being sarcastic and surprised as only a five-year-old could be. He saw behind my short response and wanted to know more. Was I really mad at myself or was something else going on? I explained more and he understood as only a five-year-old would. I responded patiently, knowing that my words and tone could have an impact on him far beyond what I said in the moment.

Remember that the way you listen will affect your response and how it is received, which can have a negative impact on the interaction.

We listen for different reasons. Some people listen for a moment and then jump into an action they had planned all along. They quickly learn that they didn’t quite get the message. If this is your standard way of listening, you could compromise your relationships and even your job.

Before the dialogue begins, commit to listening with an intention to learn or to enlighten. In the past, when I interviewed for corporate opportunities, aside from  the standard preparations, I made a point to listen to what the interviewers had to share and relate my responses to  those key areas. I never asked generic questions but came up with inquiries unique to each individual and company based on what I had heard. The same applies for your clients, families and friends. All you need you to know is contained within the interaction. Pay attention