Listening? What Did You say?

You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”

— M. Scott Peck

Listening…such a passive action that most of us just don’t do it!

If we are not driving, we are sleeping, and if we are at work we are texting, e- mailing and talking…but rarely listening and I mean really listening.

Listening means completely and utterly listening! Not thinking of tonight’s activity, the To Do list and the growing e-mail inbox!! Recently I came across another great quote about listening:

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”— Ralph Nichols

Recent studies have shown that we typically remember only 25-30% of what we hear. However, ‘Active Listening’ can increase that enormously. One of the ways to practice ‘Active Listening’ is to remember that eyes and ears should be used in the same proportion they have been allocated.

In today’s digital world we seem to be continually playing catch up with voice mails, e-mails, meetings and ever increasing tight deadlines.

Our kids tend to be watching TV, texting their friends and doing their homework! How do they do that? Well the answer is that they can’t all do all those things well at the same time.

So, is it that important? Yes it is. If we don’t truly listen we do not get the real message being communicated. So much of  the spoken word is hidden in inflection, tone and expression.

If we really want to build relationships and understand our Customer’s Notion, then we have to become really Active Listeners.

Good listening has to be worked at, and here are some brief guidelines of how it can be done: First: give your full attention to the person who is speaking.

Don’t look out the window or at what else is going on in the room. Customers want to see and believe you are interested in what they think, feel and want.

Second: make sure your mind is focused, too. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what the client is going to say next, but you might be wrong!

If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker’s words.

How many times have you been in a situation when you see that the speaker has not been allowed to finish before the other person begins to talk.

Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. Don’t we all! When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you really are.

Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can’t really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.

Worse still, I have seen many people jump in and interrupt and finish the sentence for the speaker so they can talk! Not smart.

This can only result in hurting the customers feelings and risking a negative feeling towards you and your manners, or lack thereof!

Listen for main ideas. The main ideas are the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end of a talk and repeated a number of times.

Pay special attention to statements that begin with phrases such as “My point is…” or “The thing to remember is…”

Asking questions is key to ensuring we have fully understood what the speaker has said.  A good technique can often be to play back to the client what you think they said so you can be sure your understanding is correct. For example, you might say, “When you said that that the packaging was not what you were looking for, did you mean it was the color or the shape that was a problem?”

Provide feedback. Body language communicates a great deal, so lounging back sends a message of zero interest and  apathy. Now and then, nod to show that you understand.

At appropriate points, you may also smile, frown, laugh, or be silent.

These are all ways to let the speaker know that you are really listening. Remember, you listen with your face as well as your ears!


It’s important to recognize some of these reasons for poor listening.  There can be many; such as interruptions, perceived failed expectations, preoccupation with something else, or the use of automatic gestures.

A study in Texas (Metcalf 1997) showed that people remember: 10 percent of what they read, 20 percent of what they hear, 30 percent of what they see, 50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say, and 90 percent of what they do and say.

So, when in conversation, be sure to do everything you can to make sure you are being an Active Listener.

“Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively.”— Carl Rogers


About the Author:

I am the customer relationship mentor, who helps those responsible for their company’s most important customers, to build and maintain their customer relationships and keep them happy, so that they can protect & grow their business.


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