How to Listen Better on Calls

Geek Speak

Being a good listener can help you in every aspect of your life from family and friends, to colleagues at work.  Although, many people feel communication through the phone is a thing of the past with all of electronic communication we use, it is actually one of the most important skills you can have.  How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of

your relationships with others.    There are nine areas or nine tips that you can use to be a better listener.  Watch the interview with Don Crawley as he shares with us the nine tips to becoming a better listener. 


Don Crawley


Video Transcription

Harry Brelsford  0:05 

Hey, SMB Nation, Harry here going around the horn with Don, Don welcome to q2, how are you doing?

Don Crawley  0:12 

I'm doing great, Harry, it's wonderful to be with you, as always. And it's great to see the sun's starting to peek through the clouds in Seattle and, and have a little bit of warm weather for a change.

Harry Brelsford  0:23 

Well, there we go. And I really enjoyed talking with you in our little rehearsal session that I congratulations on your family, having the vaccine and calculation and we are invincible. Yeah. close to two days away from the second inoculation period. So you know, we'll have you

Don Crawley  0:41 

ordered your Have you ordered your cape and tights.

Harry Brelsford  0:45 

Now, I can't unsee that visual.

Don Crawley  0:48 

Sorry about apologies to the audience.

Harry Brelsford  0:52 

Well, hey, it only means we can go out and have lunches as they say, Yeah, sounds like you've been you did that you're supporting small businesses, you and your wife, thank you, you know, we are SMB Nation

Don Crawley  1:05 

 So we tried really hard to take advantage of takeaway, before the restaurants were open and tried to do business as much as we could locally, just because it's in our best interest to make certain that those businesses are viable, and around long term. And so many of them, unfortunately, are through no fault of their own. And so we were, we were delighted to be able to do that. And then last night, we had our first meal out together as a couple and that was just it was wonderful.

Harry Brelsford  1:36 

Well Don, I need your coach in this month, um, I am on a lot of calls, the activity is picking up you know, it's I mean, it's noticeable, you know, just call after call after call and a couple of things. And the topic is how to how to listen better on calls. And I'm interested because I unprecedent the moment but I sometimes forget some of the details of the call right later on. And I try to write it down. And yeah, so let me hand the talk and stick to you. Right, how can myself and MSPs be better listeners.

Don Crawley  2:12 

Sure. So I did a blog post on the on how to be a better listener in person how to be a better listener in writing, and how to be a better listener on the phone. And the impetus for that came from a client who had asked me about using one of my videos, to teach his team how to be a better listener on the phone, I thought, well, let's just do a blog post on it. And so I did, and I came up with nine areas, nine tips that you can use that will help you be a better listener. And it's really, first it just like everything, Harry, it's about being aware. So you're aware that you need to work on your listening skills, and you're aware of the importance of listening and then being intentional about making the choices to actually be a better listener. And the first thing that we're going to do is we're going to focus, and that's focusing on the conversation, it's, it's resisting the temptation to look over somebody's shoulder, you know, and catch somebody's eye to even, you know, maybe mouth words or something, it's just focusing on the conversation. And you mentioned, the term being present a moment ago. And that's really what it's about, it's about focusing on the person that you're talking with. And you as an interviewer are really good at that you have to be in order to be a good interview, you have to be able to focus on the person who's talking. And you know, really, it also goes back to the empathy thing. I mean, if you were the person who's speaking the color, wouldn't you want the person who's listening to give you their complete attention? So number one is focus.

Harry Brelsford  3:40 

Well, and if you don't mind, a comment there about wanting that from the other person. No names, please. But boy, I was on a call with Jennifer hallmark, we were soliciting some work from a vendor. And zoom is very interesting compared to the phone call. Because I was on the phone I had I pulled over, right, I was trying to drive and that didn't work. So I pulled over and was on the phone. And then Jenny was on zoom. And apparently the marketing director, the lady that we were talking to, on the phone, I thought we're in like Flynn. There's some excitement, enthusiasm, they want to new ideas. Jenny, having seen the nonverbal communication said, that ain't gonna happen. Oh, yeah, go on. I didn't mean that well, bright angle on that.

Don Crawley  4:33 

But actually, that that that's a really important comment, because that's the difference between being on the phone, just having audio and I'm not talking about zoom, because with zoom, you have facial expressions and the nonverbals is Jenny observed. But if you're just on a voice call, you don't have the benefit of being able to see facial expressions and body language and what the other person is doing. And so it's really important to focus and And your comment is absolutely right on. So focus is number one. Number two is to summarize and, and the idea behind that is to say to the other person to the caller, hey, do you mind if I summarize what you just said, so that I can ensure that I understand it. And and it's, it's, again, big intentional, knowing that you're going to have to summarize it. So you have to pay attention. And it forces your focus, you also want to let people finish and, and it's really easy. I catch myself doing this to jump in with my comment, I we all do it. But, but what you want to do is you want to let people finish their thought, because sometimes they'll take a left turn and go someplace that you're not expecting, excuse me. And so let them finish. don't finish thoughts or sentences for the other person. That's, by the way, that's good advice, not only in business, but also in marriage and personal relationships. Avoid assumptions, which is kind of tied in with letting them finish, you don't want to assume that, you know, the reason for the person's call until they're finished explaining it to you. Because the what are the challenges for us in in it, and especially if you're working as an MSP or on a help desk somewhere? You've heard the same problems a gazillion times, right, yeah. But as soon as you assume that you know where they're going with with a description, they're going to take that left, turn and throw your curveball. Boy, I got it I got two cliches in in one sentence, there Harry, that's pretty good. But they're gonna, they're gonna say something that you didn't expect. And so you need to make certain that you don't make assumptions about the reason for the call about the nature of the problem, or why they're calling what they need, until they finished describing it. So you might miss some, some small but significant details. So just let them finish. The next one is super important. I keep on my desk with me, whenever I'm working, I have a notebook. And I carry this thing with me all the time. And it allows me to take notes. So that's to make certain that I don't forget some important detail that I get the gist of what you're talking about. It doesn't you don't need to have a notebook, you can do it in a CRM, you can do it on a tablet, you can do it on a piece of scrap paper. But take notes of the conversation while while you're talking. Because our memories are faulty. And and it's it's really easy to forget some important points. So take notes. There was a study that was conducted by vertex data science in cooperation with the MIT Media Lab several years ago. And what they were studying was they they wanted to, to see if there was a way that they could have agents were a device that would monitor the nature of their conversations, but there was a byproduct of this study. And they found that one of the keys to great customer service is to have the agents listen more than they talk. And what that really is saying is that if you want to be a great customer service provider, if you want to be a good business person, if you want to be a good partner, a spouse, a good parent, listen more than you talk, if here's another cliche, there's a joke about there's a reason why we were given two ears in one mouth, it's so that we could listen twice as much as we talk. But it's absolutely true. And and in fact, the Dalai Lama said he said it so well. If you if you want to be a good listener, stop talking. Because when you talk, the only thing you hear is what you already know. So you want to be a good listener, stop talking and hear something you don't know.

Harry Brelsford  8:33 

You know, it. They're here again, in the truth. There's truth to humor department. Um, sometimes you're you put you put yourself on mute on a zoom call, and you start talking. Right. Get you're on mute. And, you know, the line of last year was you're on mute. That. Yeah, but the point is, that that's actually kind of been to my benefit sometimes. Right? Because, because I am trying to interrupt the person, right, and interject myself and I'm on mute. And then then it I stay on mute, right. It's like, well, I don't really need to say that.

Don Crawley  9:13 

Yeah, yeah. Well, that's a really good point. Because in a conversation, there's this rapid fire given take, like you and I are having right now. Right? in an email exchange, there's time to be more thoughtful. And there was a guy that worked for me named Dennis Good night, and I mentioned his name because I want to honor him. And and Dennis, when you would speak to him would not respond immediately. It was as though he he was on mute. And what he was really doing was he was thinking about what you said, and then he was thinking about his response conversations with him. We're a little awkward until you figured out that he was honoring you, by not interrupting and by processing what you said and thinking about it deeply before he responded. So I think that's exactly what Right. Yeah, the mute button is a wonderful gift. Yep. Please continue. Okay, next is to ask relevant questions. You can't ask relevant questions unless you've been listening. So you want to listen with the idea that you're going to ask a relevant question to go deeper to gain clarity. You want to listen for emotion because you don't have the benefit of being able to see it. So you want to listen for emotion. And you can listen for tenseness in the voice or, or just the way people express themselves as they talk. Be patient. Let people say what they need to say, especially if you're providing tech support. You might be dealing with somebody who is really frustrated, or somebody who feels stupid because of their their lack of technical prowess. but be patient because again, isn't that what you would want, if if you were the person on the other

Harry Brelsford  10:51 

took me a long time to learn that in my career, my friend, oh, I'm still working on

Don Crawley  10:56 

it here. I'm still working on it. But with those nine tips, if you and there's a blog, post it, where it goes over those, those tips so you can review it. But if you'll follow those tips, then it'll really help you become a better listener. And I don't know that, that anybody masters the art of listening well, but it's all a matter of the journey about the process of trying to become a better listener. And that's really what we hope for is to be aware that you need to work on it and then to be intentional about taking the steps to be a better listener.

Harry Brelsford  11:28 

Yeah. Alright, my friends, thank you very much. We'll catch you on the flip side. And thanks for being part of our journey and sharing your your, your wisdom and your wisdom from the compassionate geek point of view, right because there's, there's plenty of geeks out there on the engineering side, right, I swing a dead cat at SMB Nation. And there's a time and a place for that. We'll make that the final word. Okay. Havea great month.

Don Crawley  11:59 

All right, you too Harry. Thanks a lot.