“. . . be quick to listen, slow to speak . . .” (from) James 1:19
When we decided to put our house on the market early last summer we interviewed several real estate professionals before choosing a listing agent. Each person we interviewed came highly recommended by people we knew and trusted, and had extensive experience selling homes in our neighborhood. One by one they sat at our dining room table with their slick marketing brochures offering their best sales pitches in an effort to convince us they would be our best choice. All, I must say, were impressive, highly qualified and professional. So, how did we narrow the list down to one? Simple! It was the one who listened – the one who wanted to know more about us, our hopes, dreams and desires, and quite frankly where we planned to move. The others never even asked. But guess what? We were not just selling, but also planning to buy, so we needed an agent for that as well. So in our case it paid to listen – literally, in real dollars.
It’s a noisy world out there. People are starved for someone to listen. Walk down a busy sidewalk or around a shopping mall and notice how many people have cell phones in their ear. Eavesdrop a little closer and notice how many are talking instead of listening. Most sales people, as our real estate experience demonstrates, are trained to talk, to present, to sell. Few, though, have been trained in the art of listening. Not just sales people, though, indeed most of us would benefit from some lessons in listening.
What is referred to as “active listening” is one of the key core competencies identified by the International Coach Federation as critical to effective coaching, so much so that one of the requirements for credentialing is to clearly demonstrate one’s proficiency at listening in order to pass the oral exam. How, though, does one demonstrate such a skill? Isn’t listening a passive activity? Hardly! One way, for example, is by asking questions that not only affirm what the other party is saying, but doing so with a genuine sense of curiosity. And isn’t that what we all long for, for someone to take a genuine interest in what we are saying, to feel that someone really cares? I am convinced that in this noisy world an authentic listening ear is one of the greatest gifts one human being can offer another. And it can pay off in business as well – just ask our real estate agent.