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Home » Behavior, Communication, Featured, Headline, Relationships

Are your listening skills costing you or making you money?

Submitted by on January 23, 2013 – 1:03 amNo Comment


Author: Sue Barrett

Who is really listening? … Genuinely, sincerely and honestly listening? I’m noticing a lot more telling and a lot less listening lately. You only have to watch the ABC program ‘Q&A’ to see the number of politicians who have great trouble listening – to anything except themselves. They interrupt others giving answers to questions that were never asked. No wonder we are a bit jaded and cynical.

If we reflect on our own approach to communication I suspect many of us would shudder if others described us in a similar fashion to those politicians. I am sure it is not how we would like to be remembered.

So this then begs the following questions: How many of us are effective at listening? How long does it take us before we start interrupting another person? How quickly are we formulating our thoughts, thinking about what to say, before the other person has finished speaking? How often do we interrupt the person to give our own opinions thinking what we have to say it more important? Why is practicing effective listening so tiring yet so profitable (beneficial and critical in developing and sustaining good relationships, personal and professional)?

Poor listening creates numerous problems everyday – interpreting messages or instructions incorrectly, missing details in orders, wrong solutions being offered, misunderstandings, etc. Poor listening creates unnecessary hostilities, resentment, mistrust, bad impressions and poor relationships.

For instance, one research study examined different parameters of emergency medicinal residents taking a medical history of patients. The study concluded that only 20% of patients completed their presenting complaint without interruption. In other words, 80% of the patients were interrupted during their initial presenting complaint. The average time to interruption was only 12 seconds!

In sales, listening is one of our most critical skills and without it we are simply ineffective. It has been shown that engaging in effective listening habits can improve workplace performance significantly.

Here are a few important facts about listening (reference Jan Hargrave, Listening Skills in Business):

  • The average person speaks at a rate of 100 to 200 words per minute. An average listener, however, can adequately process 400 words per minute.
  • Studies of communication have routinely found that nearly everyone listens more than they talk, reads more than they write, and spends a lot more time receiving messages than sending them.
  • Most employees spend at least 60% of their work time involved in listening.
  • Reports from the USA show that senior managers in major corporations are likely to spend up to 80% of their working time in meetings, discussions, face-to-face conversations or telephone conversations.
  • While listening consumes about half of all communication time, research indicates that most people only listen with 25% of their attention thus creating many listening mistakes with significant effects on productivity, profitability and overall performance.
  • Hearing is a physical perception; listening is a mental activity. It requires concentration, cooperation and an open mind.
  • It is estimated that 75% of all communication is non-verbal so we need not just listen with our ears we can listen with our eyes and feelings, and hear beyond the words i.e. posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, etc.

We cannot underestimate the importance of listening as a vital skill to enhance relationships of all kinds, enhance our careers and grow the top and bottom lines of our businesses. Listening enables us to gain important information and be more effective in interpreting others’ messages, feelings, needs, fears, priorities, goals and desires. Listening allows us to gather data to make sound decisions so we can respond appropriately for the benefit of all.

So are you a teller or a listener?

How many of us are really effective at listening? Could working on improving our listening skills actually make us more sales, and have more productive relationships with our staff, customers, suppliers, etc.? I suggest that yes it can.

I therefore challenge us to take a 28 Day Listening Challenge at and focus on our active listening skills for the next 28 days and see what happens when we pay real attention to what is being said and act wisely in accord. I look forward to hearing how you go.

If you are not convinced, remember these words by Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher, and you are guaranteed to improve your listening skills: “Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.”

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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About the Author

Sue Barrett endorses the propositions that ‘everybody lives by selling something’ and people buy from people they trust. Sue is founder and managing director of BARRETT, and specialises in 21st century sales training, sales coaching, sales leadership, sales capability, and sales culture transformation. Sue is one of the few prominent female voices commenting on sales today. You don’t have to be a sales person to benefit from her knowledge and insight. If you have an idea, capability, product, service or opportunity that you want to take to market then Sue says you need to be able to sell – ethically, honourably, and effectively. Sue practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with her skilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective, and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to

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