Listening - a business skill

Friday, March 15, 2002

One of Dale Carnegie's most challenging principles is "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about them." Listening is an underutilized business skill.

Think about the qualities of good listeners. They make the appropriate eye contact. Their body language, such as the nodding of the head, or leaning forward, indicates they are in tune with you. Good listeners sometimes ask questions to clarify what has been communicated. They may even summarize what they just heard to the other person for confirmation.

The behavioral aspect of the principle is to encourage others to talk about themselves. We lead interesting and exciting lives. The person listening may not share the same interests that you have.

It is a simple concept: when people talk about the things they enjoy, it is interesting to them. In "How to Win Friends and Influence People," Mr. Carnegie tells us about a social gathering he attended. In talking with a woman, Mr. Carnegie asked the woman about a recent trip to Africa. They chatted for 45 minutes and the woman did 95 percent of the talking. Afterwards, the woman complimented Dale Carnegie on being an engaging conversationalist!

Effective listening is a must for sales professionals

They ask open-ended questions that allow the other person to expound in a narrative format. Being a good listener is productive to closing a sale. With good listening skills, the sales professional can find out where that client is now, and where he or she wants to be in the future. He can pick up on the things that have already enabled to make that client successful in their field, and will also be able to detect any challenges that person faces in accomplishing their vision for the future.

It is only after that point, that the truly professional salesperson has earned the right to make a recommendation of his or her product or service to the client. By listening, a truly astute salesperson can uncover other areas for possible sales or future business with that individual.

Managers and supervisors forget that one of our most critical skills is that of listening. During meetings, we spend the time going over our portion of the presentation in our heads. It is only when we can truly hear and digest all of the information clearly, that we can become an active and productive member in a team meeting.

For those who are involved with customer service, listening can be a major part of the job. Just "hearing them out" can appease so many disgruntled customers. Many a customer service rep who takes the time to simply listen to the problem and then pass it on to the appropriate contact have appeased the customer just by listening, regardless of the solution offered

When we practice good listening the time required for effective communication becomes minimized. Also, the nature of the content is not lost as it passes between multiple individuals. Remember the elementary school game where you told an elaborate sentence and passed it on? You might have started like this: "The purple and pink octopus walks in the jail with jewelry on nightly."

When each child whispered that into the next ones' ears, the story drastically changed when it got to the end of the line. The same concepts holds true in business today. It has been said that through miscommunications in manufacturing facilities, the waste and scrap produced is significantly higher.

By using effective listening skills, we can master complex business and human relation issues. By being a good listener, we can truly strengthen relationships with co-workers and customers. Mr. Carnegie was correct and his concepts are still powerful today. "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves."

Sharon Mueller is the regional manager for Dale Carnegie Training. She coordinates Dale Carnegie Training throughout Southeast Missouri. She facilitates needs assessments, develops training programs and motivates clients to improve themselves. (573-332-0900 or

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