Listening is one of the most important aspects of our job. We can not help our clients accomplish their goals if we don’t listen well enough to hear them. Furthermore, each client is different so we must listen with fresh ears rather than with a preconceived idea of what their priorities are or should be. I call this “humble listening.”
This applies to all of us. Whether we are communicating with a friend, colleague, boss, advisor, client, or family member, listening is critical to a successful relationship. This is hard in America (for me) where silence makes us (me) uncomfortable and we (I) like to have the right answer before they stop talking.
I am no expert but here are a few things I have picked up as I have learned to listen to my clients. They are simple but not always easy.
- Ask questions. Before I respond with my thoughts or opinions, I force myself to ask questions. I tell myself “you can not form an opinion until you have asked a lot of questions.” When I’ve asked as many questions as I can think of, I try and ask a few more.
- Forget what you have to say. Many times, I think I have the right answer, and I can’t wait to share it. I either interrupt or I stop listening. I’ve learned I have to tune this out, look them in the eye, and REALLY listen to what they are saying. It helps me to make a note of what I am thinking so I can come back to it. When I do this correctly, there is usually a moment or two of silence after they talk. This is because I have to process what they said.
- Respond only when you TRULY understand what they are communicating. I have found the best way to confirm you understand what they are communicating is to replay it back to them. “I understand you are overwhelmed by your finances so it’s been hard to take any action…is this correct?” At this point, they usually start talking again and reveal even more helpful information.
I believe this is especially important when talking about money. Money is emotional, and we tend to forget everything we know about listening when we talk about an emotional topic.
It’s easy to prove a point; hard to make a difference. Making a difference often times starts with listening!