Are you able to listen? Really listen? In fact, hardly anyone really does. For most people, listening is an activity that they only perform half-heartedly while busy with something else.
For example, the listener may be setting up his counter-arguments in order to refute the other person’s arguments at the appropriate moment. Or the listener will interrupt in order to give a piece of advice. Others hear only what they want to hear. And block out the rest. They thus block out anything that does not correspond to one’s own view of things, to one’s own image of the world. And so on. There are many reasons why people do not listen while listening.
You rarely meet people who listen properly.
I was probably like you, too: I immediately recognized myself in these examples. I owe this to Richard Mullender, which I was able to experience at a seminar in Zurich. Richard Mullender is a professional negotiator for hostages and was the chief negotiator of Scotland Yard’s specialist for the toughest, most futile cases in the world. And he is a master of listening. For good reason. Because in large part, human life depended on it.
It is not only when negotiating with hostage takers that speech is silver. And listening is gold.
Whoever wants to stop a kidnapper from shooting hostages is conceivably in a very bad starting position. He knows nothing about his counterpart, his intentions, his motives. He only has one chance to learn more, to create a better negotiating position for himself: Through professional listening.
Communication starts with listening.
Whoever likes talking best has a decisive disadvantage when communicating. Because the more you let your opponent talk, the more you learn about that person. A good listener finds out the other person’s values and views without having to ask that person specifically. And even if that person is trying to put on a front. Those who are aware of and understand a person’s values and views and the hidden forces that drive them now have the keys to achieving desired negotiation results.
Listen to what interests you. And not what you are supposed to hear.
It is seldom that information that you are presented with upfront that is important, but rather that information that you glean from reading between the lines. A good listener therefore lets his opponent talk and makes sure to keep the person talking. It is not a question of contributing much to the conversation itself. The goal is to capture the right details. The longer you keep your opponent talking, the greater your chance of learning more than you are actually supposed to find out. It is only this knowledge that you have gleaned which will allow you to communicate accurately with your opponent because you will be able to address the right points in order to achieve the desired negotiating result.
A person cannot escape a good listener.
You can try to control exactly what you are saying. But doing that will make you talk very slowly—everyone will notice that you want to hide something.
Asking too many questions has its disadvantages.
The person posing the questions usually implies the expected answer in the question itself. Thus revealing much about one’s own intentions. In addition, asking questions narrows one’s field of vision and focuses on the slice of reality you have chosen, and could ruin your chance of seeing beyond the obvious and what is being presented. Questions should therefore be used sparingly, be open-ended and motivate the other person to keep talking.
Even normal negotiations benefit from these techniques
Good listening also pays off in professional life. For example, when negotiating with potential customers or suppliers. Or in employee meetings that you are leading as part of management. But what about morality? Can you use good listening to move others in a particular direction? I think so. Because good listening is not a secret technique, but rather is nothing more than respectful communication. The goal of any negotiation is to find a balance between different interests. And where is the harm in it if good negotiation results—with which everyone is satisfied—are achieved through good listening?