Listening is truly an art. It is probably one of the most valuable personal traits that anyone can possess. That is particularly true for lawyers and others in the personal services business. And it is one of the most difficult tasks for many of us, including yours truly. I just wish I was better at it.
My colleague Jim Hassett at Legal Business Development is definitely better than I in this area. In his book Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide he talks about the subject in a way that is easy to grasp, in my humble opinion. His advice is that we should listen 50%-80% of the time. In quoting from Stephen Covey’s great book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Jim points out:
“If I were to summarize the single most important principle in the field of interpersonal relationships, listening is the key.”
He goes on to tell us about the International Listening Association which provides additional resources. Finally, Jim provides five steps to get you started:
- Establish genuine interest by asking questions that you care about;
- Take notes. (It sends the message that what the person is saying is important. Of course, avoid doing so if any info is confidential);
- Respond to the speakers nonverbal cues, and monitor your own (make good eye contact and smile, but avoid frowning);
- Keep people talking by paraphrasing, summarizing and restating what you hear (people will think you are smart when you agree with them and don’t argue); and
- Prepare good questions in advance.
Any conversation your having may be the perfect opportunity to work on your listening skills. I know I am going to try harder.