Over the years, I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that in order to be successful in business and in life, you really need to know how to listen and be confident to ask the right questions.
No matter what role you play in life – parent, engineer, project manager, executive assistant or salesperson – the key to successful communication is having the ability to listen thoroughly and apply that information to asking the right questions.
The first step is to listen and to truly hear what a person is saying:
· We have a project that should finish by the end of May
If we are not listening, we will assume what the person means. If you look up the definition of “assume” you will find:
· Suppose to be the case, without proof.
· Presume, suppose, take it (as given), take for granted, take as read, conjecture, surmise, conclude, deduce, infer, reckon, reason, think, fancy, believe, understand, gather, figure.
When we assume, we are making decisions without having all the facts. We are listening, but not truly hearing what the person is saying. Our assumption could be:
· We have a project that should finish by the end of May, but it is no big deal if it slips into June
Your assumption could be correct, but what happens if it is not? What if the true answer as to why the project needs done by the end of May is that they have promised management they will be in production by June 1st? Your assumption could possibly put not only you but your company at risk.
If you listened to the statement and truly heard that the statement was opened ended, you could easily change the outcome by asking just a few questions. Does the project need to be done by the end of May? What happens if the project is not completed in that time frame? What are the financial implications if the project is not completed? All of these questions will help clarify the needs of the customer, help determine the best path forward for both you and the customer, and eliminate the risk associated with assuming.
If you take the time to listen and apply that knowledge to ask the right questions, you will be able to build strong relationships with your customers, co-workers, family, and friends. The more you know and understand, the better you will be prepared to make the right decisions.
For more information about building your listening skills, click here.
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