The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. Rachel Naomi Remen

With so much talking going on you would think we’d be good at listening. But we’re not. Research suggests that we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear.

The ability to truly listen to what other people say is one of life’s most under-valued skills. It has a major influence on the quality of your relationships with others and how good you are at your job. Working in design we need this skill, along with an enquiring mind, in order to make sure that we can deliver innovative solutions.

Yet listening has changed.

There’s more noise and more distractions in a heavily connected, technology dependent world. Music and TV on demand has meant people are retreating further into their own space. We need to be quick. Soundbites and instant social opinion have increased the need to respond faster, rather than being considered in our approach or showing an appreciation for what others are saying.

We live in a society where we are misplacing the value in the fact that listening is not simply the act of not speaking. It’s a skill, and nuanced. However, the natural starting point is to stop talking. Just listen.

We employ a number of tactics in order to understand what’s required to solve problems and deliver the right solutions.

It’s essential to let people talk. Let them articulate their pain points, what they are looking to achieve, and their objectives. We should ensure that we do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them – and we relax. The main reason is that if we are relaxed, then this can be reflected in the speaker. It’s also essential for absolute focus to be on the speaker. If you can’t put things out of mind you can easily become distracted.

Encouraging people to really let go and to communicate everything in their mind is only possible if you show that you are listening and understanding what is being said. We are super aware in all our interactions to not send any messages to the speaker signalling that we are bored or distracted.

Keeping an open mind, being impartial, and exercising patience is vital. It takes time to formulate what to say, and how to say it. This is why we never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. We’ve found that with proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus, this becomes easier.

The bottom line is you can’t move hearts and minds without understanding what causes them to race, soar, and skip a beat.

Listening without prejudice provides real human insight because we get total clarity on mindsets, behaviours, and attitudes. It’s only through listening we get the chance to communicate effectively and sincerely, making an emotional connection – giving you and your business real competitive advantage.

Thanks to our chairman Philip Mann for providing the insight used in this article.