10 Costly Business Consequences of Not Listening (and how to truly listen)

Believe it or not, this is a true story.

One time the CEO of a company I was working with gave a speech to an audience of about 200 people. The speech was well received.

After the speech, a small group of people approached the speaker with questions they felt the CEO could answer for them.

ceonotlisteningWhen everyone left, I went over to the CEO and said, “It looked like you had a lot of people interested in what you were talking about. What did they say?”

And the CEO responded, “I don’t know—I wasn’t listening.”

Not listening?


But hang on a minute

What’s wrong with not listening sometimes?

After all, the CEO probably thought he’d never see those people again, right?

Why bother making an effort to listen to people you think you’ll never see again?

By not listening, this person lost:

  • Future business opportunities (because some of these people were telling the CEO what problems they had and he was actually a person who could solve them with his business offerings)
  • Future speaking opportunities
  • Future clients
  • Opportunities to build new relationships
  • Word-of-mouth marketing (because if he had stayed in touch and built a relationship, then these people might have gone on singing his praises and brought him more business)

What does this story mean to you and your business?

Not listening hurts the bottom line.

And I mean REALLY hurts.

Check out these statistics from Business News Daily:

  • Fewer than 40% of employees are motivated by their superior to give their best. Why? Because of their supervisor’s unwillingness to listen to them.
  • 60% of employees feel their boss has damaged their self-esteem
  • 35% surveyed said their boss never (or only sometimes) listens to their concerns

The financial impact of not listening should be a serious wake-up call for many businesses.

In fact, let’s list a few negative outcomes of not listening.


10 costly business consequences of not listening:

  1. Meetings can run longer
  2. Takes longer to communicate an idea
  3. Next action steps are not clear; a week later you find out things were done incorrectly
  4. Costs time
  5. Costs money
  6. Not listening to customers—you can lose a customer
  7. Spend extra time, money, and resources to win the customer back
  8. Not asking questions to clarify what was said means you miss opportunities to serve your customers and team members better
  9. When the people on your team feel understood, they are more invested in the team and its mission.
  10. People stop engaging, since what they say doesn’t matter

If these are the consequences of NOT listening, imagine how the bottom line could be improved just by taking a little extra effort to REALLY listen.


What’s the trick to actively listening?

Actively listening isn’t hard, but it does take concentration.

Here are three simple steps you can take to actively listen.

1. Be an active listener

To actively listen means to be 100% present with the person you are with. We all have thoughts swirling around our head (which is normal), but when you’re listening:

  • Actively shut these thoughts down
  • Focus on the person speaking
  • Keep your body language open
  • Make good eye contact

2. Ask questions

  • To clarify what the person said, ask a question. Not only does this clarify what was said, it keeps the conversation moving forward.
  • Instead of asking questions, rephrase what the person said. Use key words the person spoke, so they know you’re rephrasing what was said. (This shows you’re actively listening.)

3. Understand emotion vs. logic

Another way to actively listen is to understand whether the person speaking is coming from an emotional or logical point of view. Knowing this can help you be a better listener. 

How can you tell if someone is speaking emotionally or logically?

  • An emotional person is going to use many words that talk about how they feel; they may tell you stories about people or they’ll be compassionate
  • A logical person will be task oriented and results oriented and use facts or figures when communicating


The bottom line

Listening, really listening, is a critical business skill. When you truly understand what someone else is saying, it gives you the opportunity to help.

And if you help someone, you have the opportunity to build a long-lasting business relationship.

Oh, one more thing.

One of the best parts about actively listening . . .

It’s free.

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