How to be an active listener

June 2023 - as featured in the Hunts Post

How to be an ‘Active Listener’

Often in conversation, we can find ourselves not really listening but listening to reply. This means that instead of truly paying attention to what the other person is saying, we prepare our response before they even finish speaking. This is not because we are uninterested but simply because active listening is a learned skill and not typically something many of us do automatically.


Active listening is often described as ‘listening to understand’, which involves going beyond simply hearing the words by making a conscious effort to make meaning of what they have said. Whereas Passive listening is described as ‘listening to respond’, as I mentioned earlier, is a standard way of communicating, but it doesn’t mean that we are fully paying attention.


This simple action of passive listening can stop you from being open-minded, which may lead you to misinterpret, misunderstand or miss a point completely. If we haven’t heard the other person correctly, we will quite often make assumptions. The problem with these assumptions is that they can stand in the way of building a relationship. After all, how stable can a relationship be when built on a foundation of ineffective communication?


When dealing with a Financial Adviser, you need a foundation of active listening. Whilst it is easy to gather basic hard facts like age, address, assets, etc., it is the soft facts that distinguish us from other people. Everybody is different; therefore, it is only natural that we want the most appropriate solution for our personal circumstances. If we feel we are being heard but not listened to, we can lose faith in the solution, even if it is the right one. Nonetheless, active listening and avoiding assumptions work both ways. Clients may make assumptions about the advice, and rather than taking it in, they might find they are missing what is being said so they, too, can fall into passive listening.


Sometimes making assumptions can pay off. It was Henry Ford who said, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, which obviously worked out well for the popular car manufacturer. But when dealing with Financial Advisers, you would rather know they have listened and made a detailed, personalised plan according to your best needs – rather than assuming what you might want.


Though maybe I’m just making an assumption… 


Professionals are highly qualified, experienced people, but the best ones listen.

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