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10 Keys to empathetic listening that will help you sell more

April 27th, 2022

We are born with two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Very early on we combine these endowments in creative ways to get a message across that helps us survive and in the early days, our most useful tool for getting what we wanted was our mouth. It turns out that for many (perhaps most) people their mouth continues to be the most used device. I find this interesting because compared with your ears and your eyes, your mouth has the least sophisticated connection with the brain and for some people it seems there’s no connection at all.

Our audible and visual endowments enable us to hear and see but that’s different to listening in order to understand, and observing to understand, gain insight, and stimulate curiosity. Listening and observing are the source of ideas and ideas are the source of innovation which is how we improve the quality of life through new and better ways of creating value.

At school we’re taught to read and write but, with few exceptions, we’re not taught to listen nor are we taught to observe which is one of the reasons many people find selling products or ideas so difficult.

It’s interesting that the 5th habit of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is seek first to understand before being understood. If you want to be more effective as an advisor you should study (note I said study not just read) the 7 Habits and if you want to quickly become an even better advisor, which at the end of the day is “a person who sells ideas” you should start with the 5th Habit. You’ll notice Covey wrote about “effective people,” not “smart” people or “efficient” people.

And if that’s a bit of a challenge jump on to TED and watch the presentation by Celeste Headlee on 10 Ways to have a better conversation. This is a summary of the points she raises.

  1. Be present
  2. Don’t pontificate
  3. Use open-ended questions
  4. Go with the flow
  5. If you don’t know, say so. Humility is a strength.
  6. Don’t seek to equate your experience with the other party
  7. Don’t repeat yourself
  8. Stay out of the detail
  9. Concentrate on what’s being said and how it’s being described
  10. Be interested in the other person
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