Friends, Romans and countrymen – lend me your ears!

Thank you to William Shakespeare for the above title (sorry I just couldn’t help myself). In an earlier post on the The Pulse, I banged on about the importance of asking questions when meeting and discussing issues with clients and pitching for new business. Now we visit the other side of the communication coin – listening.

Listening is perhaps the most important skill any accountant or professional adviser can bring to a discussion with a client, potential client, staff member, government department, supplier and so on. When you listen… really listen… to the other party some quite amazing things begin to happen. Here are just three to think about:

When you listen you get to know the other person better. You begin to learn what they’re about and what’s important to them;

When you listen rapport with other person starts to grow. A sharing of common ground and interests which makes for the establishment of a meaningful relationship.

When you listen trust starts to build. Every accountant should aim to become their client’s trusted adviser!

So listening has a lot of things going for it. That being said so many of us can become better listeners by focusing on some things that can get in the way. I was scanning the web recently and found an excellent list of barriers to effective listening and strategies to promote better listening.

Barriers to effective listening

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully, These include:

  • Interrupting
  • Faking attention and tuning out
  • Becoming emotional
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Getting distracted
  • Pre-judging the subject
  • Wrong focus
  • Gathering only facts
  • Inflexibility while listening
  • Avoiding complicated subjects
  • Strategies to promote better listening

How to improve your listening skills

  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker
  • Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening
  • Focus on content, not delivery
  • Avoid emotional involvement
  • Avoid distractions
  • Refrain from formulating an immediate response
  • Ask questions
  • Use the gap between the rate of speech
  • Be willing to accept revisions
  • Choose the right environment
  • Stay active by asking questions for yourself

Sourced from:

I remember my Dad saying to me years ago … “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason… make sure you use them in the that ratio”. It took me some time to work out that meant you should listen twice as much as you talk. Admittedly I was quite young at the time.