8 Ways to Be an Exceptional Listener

8 Ways to Be an Exceptional Listener



Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Good listening skills are important for growing your business relationships, but most people spend more time talking than listening. Here are eight ways to develop the skills that will make you an exceptional listener.

Most people consider themselves to be good listeners, finding it hard to admit otherwise. We know listening is vital to building strong relationships with coworkers, managers, clients, and leadership. In fact, it is considered to be the single most important communication skill necessary, valued more highly than speaking, in the business world.

We spend between 70 to 80% of each day engaged in communication, with over half that time devoted to listening, and yet we struggle to do it effectively. Because we hear speech at a rate of 500-1000 words per minute, and only speak 125-175 words per minute, we become easily bored, distracted and inattentive.

By recognizing listening as a skill necessary to establish and grow business relationships, we can begin prioritizing our need to do it well. Here are eight ways to immediately stop talking and start listening:

Admit it, when others start speaking you immediately begin thinking of what to say next. Speaking may be considered relatively easy by most, many fail to effectively listen. Stop competing for your turn to talk and simply listen. Deliberately concentrate your focus on the speaker, keeping natural eye contact, and tune into their facial expressions and body language. Clear your mind and focus on the message until they have completed their thoughts.

Few things are as inconsiderate or hard to ignore like the distraction of a device; yet, many of us are guilty to giving in to its demand for our attention. Even when we try, it is next to impossible to concentrate on someone speaking when the phone sitting next to us is buzzing with text messages, alerts, emails, and phone calls. If you’re in a conversation, silence your device. Give your respect to those speaking by removing any distractions that may compete with their message.

Active listening is more than just hearing what someone says, it’s about the desire to understand what someone is trying to convey. Mindtools – a career skills development group – reported that people only remember between 25-50% of what is heard, meaning we pay attention to less than half of what someone says. By using words of encouragement such as “I see” and “Go on,” we can boost our ability to retain conversational details. This style of interaction also promotes the conversation often revealing more details than the speaker originally considered sharing.

It’s important to get comfortable with silence in your conversations. Many of us are uncomfortable with quiet pauses and rush to fill the dead space. Instead, allow the silence to permeate the moment and give time for the speaker to transition between topics. Pausing between the end of their thought and the beginning of yours allows time for you to formulate a clear and concise response.

Imagine the number of times we could prevent miscommunication if we took a moment to paraphrase what we thought of the speaker to say. Paraphrasing helps create an opportunity of clarification if the speaker feels they were misunderstood. It provides them another chance to communicate their thoughts and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Open ended questions have power. They have the power to explore the conversation and shed light on facts that are missing. Consider how much more information you can learn if you were to ask a venting coworker “How long as this been going on,” versus “Has this been going on long?” A simple yes or no response doesn’t provide the speaker an opportunity to elaborate, but the open ended question invites them to continue in detail.

While many of our conversations may be casual, some of them serve a purpose not so easily heard. Listening for the intent of someone speaking can help reveal the reason they are sharing with you in the first place. By listening intently, you can witness whether their body language, gestures, and facial expressions match their message. If not, listen for their intent. Read between the lines and identify what they are saying without saying.

Empathy is powerful. Just because a conversation has ended doesn’t mean the situation has. If you want to build a trusting relationship with your coworkers, work on your ability to demonstrate empathy. Empathy expresses compassion and understanding for the conversation shared. Whether you are empathetic throughout the conversation or after, bringing this level of engagement to the conversation will further your relationship and create a degree of mutual respect.

By mindfully listening to coworkers and colleagues, you will begin establishing relationships built on trust and respect. The credibility you earn as your peers’ listener will help you become their partner in success.

Listen to Influence Redefined free with an Audible 30-day trial 

Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc.  She is the author of Influence Redefined: Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday to Monday and Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z to Influence Others to Take Action. Stacey and her team have delivered thousands of presentations and workshops for leaders of Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, Nationwide, FedEx, Kohl’s and AbbVie. Learn more about her team and company at: www.staceyhankeinc.com and connect with her on Twitter, @StaceyHankeInc.

Business Know-How/Attard Communications, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Source

Small Business Grants: What You Need to Know

Small Business Grants: What You Need to Know



Last Updated: Aug 30, 2017
Small business grants aren’t sitting out there waiting to be claimed by every business owner in need, but they do exist. However, there are usually strings attached and hoops to jump through. Get the real story about small business grants here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a person or entity would give you money to grow your business? The truth is, that isn’t likely to happen unless the funders are your friends or family. There are, however, plenty of grants available for a subset of small business that are in certain industries.

Here’s what you need to know about small business grants:

If you’re a small business owner or you will be soon, you’ve probably heard of the United States Small Business Administration or SBA. The SBA is the government agency in charge of helping you find success as a small business owner. However, according to the SBA it, “does not provide grants for starting and expanding a business.”

The federal government has grant programs along with some state and private organizations but most fund non-profits.

If you’re hoping to find something similar to a loan but you’re hoping not to pay it back, that’s not how grants work. Grants are often designed to foster growth or serve the public good. If an organization can give somebody money to fund research that may someday cure a disease or clean up the environment, that’s money well spent in the grantor’s eyes.

There’s very little good that comes from giving a small business grant money for general growth.

If you receive a grant, expect very specific rules on how you can spend the money. And expect the paperwork to take a significant amount of time. Grantors know better than to give a business money and forget about it. Not only do they have a fiscal responsibility to their donors, raising more money requires convincing their donors that the money won’t be wasted.

Before you go after small business grants, you’ll want to have some money saved of your own. Grants are often awarded based on matching funds. For every dollar the grantor gives you, you have to put up the same amount either through cash or financing. They want you to have “skin in the game” as well.

Grant writing is tough. It takes a lot of time and there’s an art to completing the request. Many people looking for grants hire a grant writer for help. If you’re not the greatest writer and/or have no experience writing grants, get some help—at least for the first couple.

People in the grant business know where to look to find offers that might pertain to them. Because of the amount of competition you might be perfectly suited for the grant but don’t get it because so many others are too. Don’t make a business plan around getting grants.

RELATED: 3 Simple Ways to Finance a Start-Up Business

But what if you are the type of business or organization that grantors look for? How do you find a list of small business grants? Start with the SBA’s Loans and Grants Search Tool. Here, you can research different funding options that might apply to you. You can also try grants.gov for a long list of government-funded grants.

For other opportunities, visit the website or call groups and organizations related to your industry. If you’re a woman, for example, you could call you state branch of the Women’s business center and research Amber Grants to get started.

Sometimes the biggest stumbling block in obtaining funding is finding the grants that apply to you. This is where old-fashioned networking becomes one of your allies.

It’s not a grant but the SBA can help you get a small business loan. By going through certain SBA-approved banks, you can get a small business loan guaranteed by the SBA. This guarantee allows lenders to lower their lending standards. If you’re just starting or were turned down for a traditional loan, go to the SBA’s website and research the types of guaranteed loans available to you.

Bottom Line

The idea of free grant money is certainly appealing to small business owners who are just starting or struggling to grow. The unfortunate truth is that you’re not likely to find it unless you’re a non-profit, educational institution, or contribute something that solves a large-scale problem. However, if you are in one of those industries that the government and private foundations and organizations want to see grow, there may be a lot of opportunities out there for you. Just be prepared for the mountain of paperwork and compliance that comes with any grant.

© 2017 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

Source