Are you listening?

Last Thursday, our Lettings & PM Group were hosted by Breckon & Breckon in Oxford and spent the morning with Richard Mullender, the hostage negotiator, who shared some of his experiences of life and death situations.

It was a riveting workshop, peppered with tales of the Taliban, drug dealers in Columbia and how only one, of 150 “jumpers” a year in London, sadly dies – the rest are persuaded by skilled negotiators like Richard, to rethink their situation. And the biggest lesson for me was the difference between hearing and listening.

Hearing is what nearly all of us do in most of our interactions. In conversation we interrupt, ask questions, compare and contrast – just about everything but properly listen. Many people enter a dialogue with a preset mindset – we anticipate confrontation so we quickly become combative or we feel sad for the person so we’re compassionate. Often we might be in a competitive situation so that’s what we become or worse, we like to be right, so only hear the points that agree with our own. All too rarely do we start from a totally neutral mindset with a preparedness to listen to what’s actually being said.

Richard highlighted how most often it’s the words used that matters – (thereby shattering the idea that body language makes up 55% of communication, tone of voice 38% and that words are only 7%), but went on to highlight how it’s the subtleties that give the most clues. He also demonstrated how uncomfortable pauses and silences can actually yield insights that would be lost if the vacuum was filled.

Many of our members who were present at the workshop have decided to now work with their teams on developing their listening skills. One way to do this is to double up on a market appraisal, where one person says nothing and just takes notes, and then both compare their understanding of the conversation immediately afterwards. I accept that two people on one appointment might seem an unnecessary cost but having heard Richard three times now, I’m persuaded that this is a really good idea and could lead to some excellent training opportunities which in turn will result in clients being better listened to, understood and appreciated – three things that without question in my experience will result in winning the business.

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