Every entrepreneur I’ve ever met across Mid Ulster and indeed Northern Ireland claims to be a good
listener, but how much do you really listen to your customers’ needs and wants? Without hearing
their needs and wants you can never truly satisfy them, putting your competitive advantage at risk.
How often do you really listen to your staff? Their concerns, their ideas, the things that motivate
them. Failing to listen to staff can be just as catastrophic for your business as failing to listen to
customers, after all it is them who will service the needs of your clients.
People tend to listen to respond instead of listening to hear (‘Active Listening’). Active listening is the
process of mindfully concentrating, hearing, understanding and effectively responding to what the
speaker is saying. By employing active listening, you not only have a better understanding, but you
also gain the respect of the speaker who will appreciate your attempts to fully understand their
Here are some things you can do:
Pay attention – Body language speaks louder than the words and can help you hear more
effectively. E.g. a customer who doesn’t make eye contact or who has turned away from you even
slightly, may not be satisfied with a solution you propose even if their mouth is saying otherwise.
Show that you’re listening – Active listening is exactly what it says on the tin – actively listening. Let
the speaker see that you are listening. Nod, smile, show an open and interested posture and
encourage them to continue talking with verbal cues like ‘yes’ and ‘uh huh’.
Clarify – Your personal feelings, judgements and beliefs can distort what you hear creating a gap
between what the speaker is saying and your interpretation of it. You can ensure you are
understanding what is being said by paraphrasing & clarifying. So saying things like: ‘so what I’m
hearing is…’, ‘Am I right in saying that…?’, ‘what do you mean when you say…?’ will work well.
Listen to Hear not Respond – We are naturally programmed to listen to answer. While listening we
are already thinking of our response, often leading us to interrupt with defensive counter arguments
or with ‘how about…?’ if the speaker is describing a problem or ‘oh yes this happened to me and…’ if
they have had a similar experience to you. Instead, wait until they have finished.
Respond appropriately – Remember that the point is to encourage respect and understanding so be
open and honest. Assert your opinions respectfully. Summarise everything you have heard and, if
necessary, ask for some time to think about what they have said before responding in haste. And ask
for feedback on your response.
Thanks for listening!