Benchmark Business Group

Listening in the World of COVID-19

April 28, 2020

We know that COVID-19 is all that is being talked about right now. We’ve been in touch with many business owners and our focus is keeping your attention focused on what you can control.

Small business owners do more with less every single day. They are innovators. They solve problems. They figure things out. We’re hitting pause on our newsletter to bring you a tip each week as your business deals with COVID-19.

The good news is these will be short. They will be practical. They will help you improve your business, not just in response to current events, but long term.

This Weeks Tip: As more meetings are taking place with platforms like Zoom or over the phone the skill set of listening is changing for many people.

Listening when you don’t have the aid of seeing someone face to face is different. You may or may not have body language to interpret. And even if you’re using a platform like Zoom, video isn’t the same as being physically across from someone.

At first, it may seem like a negative; however, there are positives. We make assumptions using elements like body language or facial expressions when listening face to face. When those are removed, the need to ask more questions rather than to continue to make assumptions is greater.

The good news is the techniques for listening over Zoom and phone conversations can be used to help sharpen your listening skills overall. A few quick things to remember:

  • Listen for Tone - Body language isn’t the only element that can be used to create context around what someone is saying. Tone of voice, including pace, can help you create context. Listen for “how” the person is speaking. 
  • Stop Making Assumptions, Just Ask - We all make assumptions, but the key to good listening is to challenge those assumptions. Do you hear resistance to an idea? Did you hear something that made you think the person you are talking to is in a hurry? Ask them. You might check in by asking, “I just wanted to check in and see how much time you have for our call today.” When you ask a question, keep in mind the way you ask, because if you ask too directly it could cause them to be defensive. For instance, there is a big difference between, “It sounds like you don’t like this idea” and “I just wanted to check in; I may be reading into this, but you seem to be hesitant on moving forward with this idea. What are your thoughts?”
  • Paraphrase - A key listening skill, regardless of how the conversation is held, is paraphrasing. Putting what you heard into your own words and asking for feedback is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re on the same page. It eliminates listening mishaps from you, but it also ensures that the communicator is getting their message across clearly.

It doesn’t matter if communication is online, over Zoom, over the phone, or in person, listening is a skill set we can all improve. Today’s environment is just giving us a chance to practice in different settings.

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