Strong relationships are the key to personal and professional success. People who build strong relationships are known as connectors, and relationship building—or connecting—is a skilled activity that can be learned, improved, and measured.
As a connector, one of the best gifts you can give someone is your undivided attention with mindful listening. After all, don’t we all want other people to understand us better?
Unlike hearing, which doesn’t require extra effort, listening involves paying close attention to what someone says and how they say it. Mindful listening is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone—and it can get rusty without practice. Think back to a conversation you had with someone who:
- Cut you off mid-sentence
- Completed your thoughts
- Only talked about themselves
- Didn’t ask you any questions
- Looked at their phone
- Invaded your personal space
- Searched the room for someone else to talk to
These behaviors don’t exactly create a good impression, do they? In contrast, think about the best relationship builders you know and their conversation styles. Chances are, they practice the four techniques detailed below.
Trust is the basis for strong relationships.
It builds when one person feels heard and understood by another.
Focus Your Mind
You cannot concentrate on what someone else is saying if you are busy rehearsing a response in your head. Focus on the words and phrases that are being said. Draw a mental image in your mind (a picture really is worth a thousand words!). If your thoughts begin to wander, take deep, quiet breaths to center yourself and refocus on the conversation at hand.
Question: How can you be more mindful to focus better on others?
Ask Thoughtful Questions
Knowing that people are genuinely interested in you—and your success—forms the basis of solid, long lasting relationships. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Ask specific, thoughtful questions to find out what is important to others (don’t assume their needs are the same as yours). For example, “Who’s your ideal client?”, “What’s your greatest business challenge?” or “How can I help you succeed?”
Question: What questions do you wish people would ask you (and that you would ask them)?
Look for Nonverbal Cues
Research shows that 70 to 90 percent of all communication is nonverbal. To be a good listener, observe other people’s facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact, and posture. Show interest by smiling and leaning your body slightly forward. Importantly, adapt your style to the individual you are speaking with. When you mirror their body language, you send a subtle yet powerful signal that helps establish agreement and connection.
Question: What nonverbal cues do you look for (and send) when trying to build rapport?
The hallmark of a good listener is the ability to put aside personal judgments and to let other people talk without offering solutions or jumping to conclusions. You don’t have to agree with someone to acknowledge their point of view and empathize with their thoughts and feelings (e.g., “I see” or “I understand”). People appreciate when you make an effort to see things from their point of view.
Question: Do you listen patiently when other people talk (even if you don’t agree)? How might you become a more empathetic listener?
Practice these simple yet effective techniques for becoming an active and appreciative listener and you will build strong personal and professional relationships–guaranteed.
This blog post is excerpted from the “Mindful Listening for Relationship Builders” online learning course which is part of the Business Relationship Building Academy from The Galvanizing Group, a learning and development company offering coaching, training, and online courses to high-performance companies and teams who seek a systematic and measurable approach to trust-based business relationship building.
Photo credit: Amy Hirschi on Unsplash