Intensive Listening for Sales and Customer ServiceWhen we have something important to say, we not only feel a need to express it, we feel fear that we won’t get the chance, because so often we are interrupted, drowned out or brushed off.

A tactic I call “Intensive Listening” alleviates that fear for the person with whom you’re talking.

Intensive Listening goes beyond Active Listening in that it ignores the standard rules of conversation: you talk, then the other person talks, then you, then the other person, and so on.  When you are engaged in Intensive Listening, only the other person talks. You just listen.

Don’t interrupt.  Don’t argue.  Don’t judge.

Keep steady eye contact and use plenty of non-verbal cues (head-nodding, smiling, frowning, raising eyebrows). You can throw in an occasional verbal cue (“Mm-hmm.” “Right.”  “You’re kidding.” “Really?” “I don’t blame you.” “That’s awful.”), but otherwise, say nothing, even when the other person appears to finish talking.

Most of us feel compelled to fill any conversational gap immediately because we’re uncomfortable with silence. But that silence gives the other person a chance to think, to reflect, to uncover buried concerns and feelings before continuing on.

And when your counterpart does not have to fear losing the floor, they can relax and feel more comfortable, both with you and the issues being discussed. And perhaps most importantly, they perceive that you really care and you truly understand them.

What you are doing is giving them the gift of undivided attention, a thing so rare, we forget what it feels like. In return, the other person will give you several gifts: their respect, their trust and the information you need to best help them. (Although sometimes, the best way to help them is just to listen.)

Intensive Listening is not always appropriate. As its name suggests, it is best reserved for situations in which there are intense emotions, or there is a need for deep, detailed information.

Intensive Listening is especially useful when dealing with extremely angry customers, when there is little or no trust or when someone has experienced a loss, such as a divorce, a layoff or the death of a loved one. Also, note that this approach works best face-to-face, although it can be applied over the phone.

Try Intensive Listening the next time you sense a need for deeper communication. You’ll be amazed at how beneficial it is for both you and your counterpart.