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Listening is an important skill to use thoughtfully to develop business. One of my clients is well loved by his clients. They trust him and he gives them everything possible to supply great work and the best client service. He often calls me to discuss a conversation that is coming up and tells me everything he plans to say to the client.
During the coaching session, I will remind him to stop talking long enough for his client to respond to what he is saying. Each time, it is a revelation for him. He is so caught up in his need to convey information, he forgets that the other person is part of the conversation. And that person is the one who is buying his services.
My client is grateful for the reminder to make a statement, and then create space for silence, to give the other person a chance to think and respond. He confirms with me that he is much more effective when he remembers to listen. He also learned to be more comfortable with silence. During the silence, his client has the opportunity to think about what was said.
Some individuals who are process-oriented need time to think and digest information. Some people are impatient to get to the next idea and are quick to respond. It is vital to make room for silence so any person you speak with has a chance to engage and be heard.
The impact for another one of my clients was a big win of new work. While I helped her prepare for a meeting with a possible new client – the second phase of an RFP (Request for Proposal) process – I reminded her to pause and take a breath after conveying information. She is a fast talker. She is uncomfortable with silence, and like many people talks to avoid any dead spots in a conversation. By taking that pause, she noted the potential client asked questions of her and the meeting was much more of a conversation. The impact was the development of a relationship and the trust to win her the work.
Here are a few steps you can take to insert a pause in your conversations and become more comfortable with silence.
- Prepare for conversations before you have them.
- Write down the major points you want to make during the conversation.
- After each point, write the word BREATHE or PAUSE to help you remember to create space.
- During the conversation, check yourself to be sure you are listening rather than planning your next statement.
- After the conversation, critique yourself: What did you do well? What would you like to improve?