Have you ever been chatting with someone, only to glance up and realize he or she was staring off into space? Or worse, texting while you were talking? Ever been on the phone with someone who was obviously typing as you chatted contentedly? And let’s not even get into tweeting while eating, gaming while working, and Facebooking through meetings. The increase in technology use in our daily lives has contributed to an uptick in communication faux pas that are essentially throwing us back into the Stone Ages when it comes to carrying on conversations and effectively sharing in-person interactions. So what’s a manager to do?
Today’s consumers and employees are looking for meaningful interactions in the marketplace. We’ve all learned that authenticity is key when connecting with individuals in today’s fast-paced world, and by mastering the key components of communication, you’ll be better equipped to provide the truest version of your dealership and demonstrate your commitment to your customers and your employees. Communication is a powerful tool, and when you develop the skill it takes to meaningfully connect with the individuals who are integral to making your dealership successful, you’ll be driving toward a brighter future.
A conversation of substance starts with you putting down your mobile device. (It’s scary, but trust us on this one.) By honing your listening skills and focusing on the individual at hand, you’ll be more in tune with the interaction, more aware of reactions, and better able to participate in the conversation. As soon as you start concentrating on becoming a better listener, you’ll automatically start to become a better overall communicator.
It may seem simple, but for many, listening is a lost art—or a skill not yet mastered. Dr. Stephen Covey is well-known for having authored the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and he asserted, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” In other words, people tend to jump ahead when they are listening, searching for a reply to the speaker.
When you actively listen, you are showing your employees, business partners, and potential customers you are authentically engaged with them and respect what they have to say. Alternately then, a disengaged listener tends to give off a vibe of disrespect—something to be avoided in all of your business and personal dealings.
In our busy lives, often the intent is good even though our follow-through falls a bit short. We like to multitask; in fact, it’s become fashionable to boast about the number of projects we can focus on in unison. We are talented jugglers, but in order to offer up authenticity in communication, it’s necessary to focus on the singular task of sharing ideas. Luckily, there are ways to bring listening skills into focus, and in turn, spotlight the quality communication which will improve the way everyone at your dealership shares information.
If you’re looking for some great ideas to give yourself and the professionals at your dealership an edge, start with some of the ideas below:
1. Listen in the moment. Focus on listening to the speaker’s ideas and make a point of NOT planning what you’re going to say ahead of time. This may mean a few extra moments of consideration when the speaker is finished with his or her thoughts, but your increased attention to the conversation at hand will be noticed.
2. Get rid of distractions. While it’s tempting to check multiple things off our lists at once, when taking time out of your day to speak with an employee, peer, or customer, make sure you set aside mobile devices or other distractions. Make eye contact and assure the speaker they have your attention. If you have important tasks you simply can’t set aside, consider rescheduling your conversation so you’re able to devote your full attention to listening and interacting.
3. Actively listen. Your days are full—full of emails, paperwork, spreadsheets, and customers—and at any given time, lists of concerns are running through your mind. However, when you do your best to focus on the matter at hand, the person you’re speaking with will notice. Actively listening involves giving your feedback, asking and answering questions, and interacting throughout the conversation.
4. Openly listen. Some topics are difficult; everyone in business knows this. However, closing the door to difficult topics only serves to create an atmosphere of distrust and resentment. Let the professionals at your dealership know you have an open door when it comes to discussing whatever they may need to discuss, however, remind them you will hold them to the highest of standards when it comes to communicating professionally. Being open to discussion, while being recognized for your fair and professional standards, will assure your employees you value their input and their contributions.
5. Be an empathetic listener. Whatever it is an employee or peer has to share with you, practice the art of empathy. When you try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes, you’ll be demonstrating patience and understanding—and you’ll have a greater capacity to understand the needs of those around you. As a leader, practicing empathy allows you insights into the viewpoints of others, giving you the ability to resolve more conflicts, motivate individuals, and eliminate certain workplace struggles.
6. Take a breath. When you pause and take a moment to think about how you’re going to reply, you are actually accomplishing a couple of things: You’re ensuring you won’t accidentally interrupt someone who’s still speaking, and you’re verifying that what’s been said is important enough for you to give some serious thought to your response. So take a breath; consciously pause for a couple seconds and then give your reply. You’ll be showing your respect and your talent as a great listener when you do.
7. Review what you’ve heard. Instead of just sipping coffee and nodding, after employing your active listening techniques, go over what you’ve heard in your own words. Ensure you’ve completely understood what’s being communicated by repeating the information back to the speaker. By paraphrasing, you’ll be able to avoid any misunderstandings, and the speaker can clarify and answer any questions you may have.
When you demonstrate the skill it takes to actively listen to your employees, your peers, and your customers, you’ll be modeling an example of effective communication that can be used dealership-wide to improve both your internal culture and the customer experience. Look forward to an environment that boasts happier employees, more understanding peers, and fewer misunderstandings between professionals and customers. All of this leads to a healthier bottom line and more satisfied employees—and that’s something that should catch your attention.