The Lost Art of Listening, Part 2

Develop one-word tags to label a speaker’s main points. For instance, if a member complains about payment, you may tag “dues.” Trigger words are an easy way to keep track of a speaker’s remarks and to prevent your mind from wandering. This works well in situations with frustrated members who may rant and rave, only to forget much of what they have said. If you respond to their main points by using your tag words, they know you were listening.

Paraphrasing a speaker’s comments also encourages close listening. By summarizing what has been said, you let the speaker know that he/she is being heard and can help clarify potential misunderstandings. Paraphrasing helps speakers as well by making them aware of how their remarks are being heard.

An additional way to encourage closer listening is to ask follow-up questions. When someone finishes speaking, ask questions about what was just said to encourage the speaker to elaborate and to gather more information. Asking intelligent questions requires that you pay attention.

Whenever you are listening or asking follow-up questions, be sure to retain personal facts that people mention. If anyone mentions their birthday, make a mental note of the date, and then write it down immediately. When you unexpectedly recognize people on their birthday, they often will be surprised and will ask how you knew the date. You shine and reveal good listening skills this way.

Using silence is an often overlooked way to improve listening skills. Silence is the most obvious sign that you want to listen. In this loud world, silence can be threatening, making people feel uncomfortable, self-conscious and forced to fill the gap with idle chatter. But when you are silent, you give others a chance to talk so that you can learn about them.

After you ask someone a question, stop and stay quiet, no matter how long it may take the person to respond. Don’t feel obliged to fill silence with wasted words. Keep a pleasant, interested expression that encourages the person to respond. If you provide ample time, people generally will respond. This works especially well with membership sales; usually the more you stay silent, the more you learn about what the potential new member is seeking in a fitness facility. Armed with this knowledge, you are better able to tailor your facility tour and remarks to what best fits their needs. Salespeople who ramble on can easily lose both the customer and the sale.

Finally, Stettner recommends the “Three Beat Rule” in which you silently count to three before you respond to a speaker. Giving the speaker an extra three seconds allows him/her one last chance to continue talking and also buys you time to formulate your response.

Too often, we ignore the power of listening as we stay focused on talking to get our message across. See what happens when you try some of these suggestions.

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