Here are some additional tips for active listening. Realize that restating what the speaker has said indicates you've heard them. But what if they say something negative? Do you want to repeat that verbatim? I don't think so. You want to put a positive spin on what they’re saying, so while you let them know that you heard it, you should also let them know it might not be a completely negative thing.
How important is humor when listening? It’s really important, because in many cases people will indicate that they aren’t ready to leave their comfort zone. Using humor allows them to be more comfortable because it reduces the stress in a conversation.
Other questions you might ask yourself are:
- Are you prepared to listen for what is not being said in the conversation?
- What's missing?
- What does the speaker value?
- What is the speaker concerned about?
- Is there a question behind the question?
- Have they asked a question that's unusually vague?
- Are there any changes in the speaker’s level of disclosure and/or tone when addressing certain topics or colleagues?
- If they talk about something as if they're happy about it - but shouldn't be - you have to ask yourself, “Why are they doing that?”
Lastly, here are some advanced techniques:
- Listen for keywords that can be used to build rapport and repeat them later in the conversation. This is a tenet of rapport-building taken from NLP training (i.e., neuro-linguistic programming).
- You should listen for phrases that indicate whether your prospect’s primary communication modality is visual, auditory or kinesthetic. If they say words like “see,” then they're likely visual. If they say words like “sounds to me,” or “I heard him say,” then they're likely auditory. If they say, “I feel strange about making this decision right now,” or “I think it's going to be a heavy lift,” you might assume that the person is more kinesthetic. This all comes out of the annals of neuro-linguistic programming as well, which I definitely recommend you explore further. The goal is to begin incorporating words and phrases that resonate with your listener’s primary modality, even if your own is different.
- Does the talker favor certain phrases or metaphors that you could repurpose in your online presentation or follow-up correspondence to gain additional rapport?
Bottom line: There are a lot of things that you can do to make sure that the person understands that you're truly listening. Find the right methods for you, turn them into habits, and reap the benefits.