2 min read

Welcome to the FBI. Now shut up and listen

Welcome to the FBI. Now shut up and listen
Photo by Belinda Fewings / Unsplash

When it comes to building relationships, it's not all about what you have to say. A good friend of mine, Alyson Roach suggested this in her blog this morning. It's all about the importance of listening more and talking less, but only if you want to generate more business or extend your network.

In Brendan Kane's book, "Hook Point" he tells the story of Chris Voss, former head of FBI international hostage negotiation. In listening to the technique he describes it becomes evident that mastering the art of listening is also indispensable in business negotiations and networking environments. Here's the audio extract.

Welcome to the FBI

Chris Voss, the former head of FBI international hostage negotiation, explains that active listening is critical in business negotiations. Here are the basics:

1. Listen to what the other person has to say. Don't interrupt disagree or evaluate.

2. Make brief acknowledgement by saying yes, uh-huh and nodding in your head

3. Repeat back what the other person says without being awkward so you can show that you understand their frame of reference.

4. Ask questions to show that you were paying attention and that help move the discussion forward. 

I recommend practising active listening for a week. As you do so, follow the steps above and keep a journal of your observations. Make a point to actively listen to and observe others around you. Try to listen 90% of the time. 

Notice how many people around you are truly listening versus how many are simply waiting for their turn to talk. Practice staying neutral. Don't react emotionally to other people's responses. Try to understand the other person’s point of view even if you strongly disagree with it. 

Ask thoughtful questions. Know how people respond to being asked questions.  Do they seem open and excited that you're taking an interest in them? If you practice active listening and do the exercise above you will be amazed by what you discover. Not only will you realise how many people don't take the time to truly listen but you also be surprised by how much more connected you feel to others. 

You create strong connections by simply focusing your attention on other people instead of trying to explain your points of view.  If you practice this often and maintain a high level of listening in meetings you'll have a better chance of winning new business.