In our previous blog post, we talked about networking conversation starters as a way to improve our communication skills. Talking, however, is just one side of the story. In this blog post, we’ll be focusing on listening: the unsung hero of guaranteed business success.
Listening & Networking
There’s a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is passive; we hear things all the time. Listening, however, is a skillset…
Imagine you’re at a networking event and you’ve just struck up a conversation with someone. Whilst they’re talking about a given topic, something clicks in your brain: ‘Oh I know about this topic—I actually had a similar experience. I’ll wait till they’ve fini
shed talking and then tell them about it.’
What’s really happening in this scenario? For starters, we’re not truly engaged in the conversation. More often than we care to admit, our interactions with others are swamped by our immediate need to reciprocate, rather than listening to what they actually have to say.
The success rate of our networking activities can be greatly improved through active listening. So, what is it?
What is Active Listening?
Active listening is a technique for effectively interacting with others in conversation. It involves making a conscious effort to hear the other person’s point of view—not just the words they’re saying to express it. Otherwise known as ‘empathic’ or ‘reflective listening’, active listening shows attentiveness and leads to engaging, authentic discussions.
Let’s use an example: the ‘unreliable listener’. You know the type: all over the place in conversation, no continuity, just thinking about what they’ll say next to try and impress you. Secretly, you’re both just waiting for the conversation to end…
Networking only works through reciprocal communication between speaker and listener. What the unreliable speaker doesn’t realise is they’ve trapped themselves in a one-sided conversation. Instead of just riffing off what the other person is talking about, let’s look at some tactics from active listening that’ll make us more compelling people to talk to.
Active Listening: Dos and Don’ts
Easier said than done, mental focus on the speaker and the perspective they’re expressing is where active listening begins. To actively listen means to be present—not worrying about the future course of the discussion, but how to engage and shape it in the here and now.
Once you’re fully attuned to what the person is saying, you can turn to the following techniques for crafting an effective response:
2. Confirm & Clarify
Also known as ‘looping back’, the confirm & clarify technique involves summarising or asking a question about the other person’s perspective (e.g., ‘So what you’re saying is…’). Not only does this show your interlocutor that you’re paying attention, it also gives them the opportunity to elaborate on what they said previously.
Confirming and clarifying the other person’s perspective ensures you’re both on the same page. It’s also guaranteed to lead to more impactful conversations whilst networking.
3. Avoid Judgement
One thing that can distract us from properly listening to other people is our capacity to judge them too quickly. Active listening tells us to refrain from making snap judgements about people’s lifestyle, politics, etc. These things will only distract you from the conversation at hand.
Judgements might happen involuntarily—it’s our nature to form reflections on the people we interact with. That said, don’t let your opinions of others prevent you from focusing on what they have to say.
4. Mirroring Techniques
Mirroring techniques are a great way to let the speaker know you’re fully engaged in what they’re saying. When mirroring, a person is replicating the physical and verbal behaviours of the speaker as a way to establish rapport and empathy.
If they smile, you smile; if they nod, you nod. Mirroring the gestures and emotions of the person you’re talking to is essential if we wish to get the most out of our conversations.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
– Ernest Hemingway
We hope to have shared some useful active listening tactics so you can progress in your career and professional relationships. There are many reasons to use active listening whilst networking. More than anything, however, active listening skills establish trust between yourself and the person you’re talking with. Even if you find yourself in a disagreement with someone, if you can condense their point or opinion into something comprehensible, they know you can be trusted—that you’re a reliable listener.
Looking for a Network?
Here at Nexus Networking, we take managing and utilising business connections seriously. The benefits of professional networking are undeniable, and Nexus Networking makes every effort to ensure these benefits are had by all our members.
Our weekly meetings take place across three separate groups based in Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Colchester, respectively.
If you’re in need of a network, join us for a free meeting by clicking here and applying as a visitor through our website. Or, if you would like more information about Nexus, visit our website on www.nexusnetworking.co.uk, email any questions you may have to email@example.com, or give us a call on 01206 588 000. We look forward to hearing from you!