Please stop talking


Recently a general counsel told me that as a young associate at a law firm he was very excited to be asked to attend his first meeting with a client. He said after the meeting the partner who was with him called him aside and said, “You need to shut up.” He was quite offended at the time, but in hindsight he believes it was some of the best advice he ever received.


Listening is a skill that is necessary to find out what is really going on with your clients or prospects. Unless you really listen to what they are saying you will never be able to help them. To know how to listen to someone else, keep in mind how you would like someone to listen to you. How would you like them to help solve your problem?


Review the list below and evaluate your listening skills.


Maintain eye contact and show that you are totally focused on what they are telling you.


Ask engaging questions such as, “What happened then.” “What did you say?”


Don’t try to think about what you are going to say next. In fact, sometimes the “just shut up” strategy can be a good one. It lets the speaker think about more information they may want to add.


Wait until the speaker has completely finished before responding to what has been said.


Don’t make assumptions that you know what they are thinking. Ask for clarity.


Paraphrase their points to make sure you understand.


Don’t immediately impose your solutions or talk about how you have already solved their problem. They want to feel like you are helping them by fully understanding their unique situation and drawing upon your experience to help them with it.


Only offer comparisons if asked. You don’t want to make them feel like their situation is so common that you’ve seen it dozens of times and it is easy to resolve. This will only make them feel foolish for not figuring it out on their own.


In many cases you will hear the solution loud and clear if you stop talking and start doing a better job of listening. It shows respect, and a little silence after you have asked a question shows that you have probably hit the nail on the head and will get the work you set out to obtain.