This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Did you know the hallmark skill of the best salespeople is the same one that sets the extraordinary consultants from the pretty good ones, and that distinguishes advisors from trusted advisors?

It’s listening.

And yet most of us are mediocre listeners, at best, if we’re really honest with ourselves. That’s because the kind of listening that engenders trust—deep trust—requires that we pay attention. And by that I mean really pay attention, by tuning into the music, the tone, mood, and emotion along with the words of someone’s communication. By hearing the subtext as well as the text and then reflecting it all back accurately and frequently enough that you get confirmation that you are successfully relating to the entirety of the other person’s world.

It’s easier said than done.

The good news: There’s a cure that doesn’t require surgery or a major personality overhaul. It doesn’t have to be dispensed at just the right time with just the right people under just the right circumstances. It’s available to us during any and every waking hour—in fact, there’s no better time for it to be administered than over the holidays.

The cure is practice.

With practice, you learn to overcome your biggest listening barriers, like the lure of the incessantly chiming device, or the chatter in your head that begs you to listen to it, or your own propensity to talk because it’s so much more comfortable. Instead, you put your time and energy toward being insatiably curious—yes, even with the cantankerous relative whose political views are diametrically opposed to yours.

It takes practice to become natural. To whom might you give a good listening this week?

Make It Real

This week, unleash your natural curiosity on the people with whom you interact—family, friends, service providers. Do this especially when they say or do something that triggers you. Here are some phrases that will help:

  • “Wow, we see that really differently. Tell me more about your take on that.”
  • “Interesting! What do you see, from your vantage point?”
  • “This is clearly important to you. What’s your biggest concern about it?”
  • “Seems like you’ve thought a lot about this. What led you to your point of view?”
  • “Hmmmm … what’s behind that?”

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).