“Stop…collaborate…and listen.” – Vanilla Ice
Has this ever happened to you? You are sitting down with a pair of clients, taking notes and you happen to hear a fleeting mention of “Rock Wall.” Suddenly, the expert travel consultant you are starts mentally planning their cruise. You know which ship they will sail and in what stateroom they will sleep. With barely another word from your client’s mouth, you start in with the name of the ship and all of the benefits. Your enthusiasm and excitement begin to grow because you have sailed this very ship. You know the ins and outs; you know to pre-register for the shows; you talk in depth about the difficulty of climbing the rock while 160 feet above the ocean. Next thing you know you are doing a mental calculation regarding your commission.
It is at this moment your client looks at you as if you haven’t heard a word she said. You completely missed her comment that she did NOT want to be on one of those big ships with a rock wall. She wanted a more upscale experience and was willing to pay for more personalized service. Your thoughts of a big commission start draining from your thoughts.
“Listen, my children, and you shall hear.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It is at this point that I suggest you look into joining Toastmasters. While most correctly identify Toastmasters as an organization to help improve your speaking skills, there is a hidden benefit to joining. Toastmasters International helps all active meeting participants work on their listening skills. In each meeting several roles are filled by the attendees. The roles the membership takes on include: a timer to literally time the speech from beginning to end, an evaluator to give constructive criticism to the speaker, a grammarian to count the number of times improper grammar is used, and an “ah-counter” to count how many times the speaker use fallback phrases and crutch words.
When you take an active role in the meeting you really have to stay focused on the task at hand. For example, the person serving as timer uses a series of identifying lights or cards to let the speaker know when she is half done with her time, met her time requirement, or gone over her time allowance. This helps those who will ask for “a five-minute meeting” not turn it into a 45-minute one. The timer cannot let his or her mind start wandering. She cannot start texting her friend or answering her email while serving as timer.
We say in Toastmasters again and again that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Think of how many sales have been lost because our mouths have overpowered our ears. If you want to improve your listening skills I highly recommend joining Toastmasters. You can certainly invest the time by checking out at least a meeting or two. Find a location near you by clicking this link. Have you ever participated in a meeting or are you a Toastmaster? Please share the benefits you received in the comments below.