Monday, May 13, 2024

Listen with Benevolent Intentions

Listening sells. In a literature review article, researchers at University of Haifa and Stanford University point to the evidence that agents of influence who listen well are more persuasive than those who don’t. Good listening builds trust, and trustworthiness leads to the target of persuasion taking advice and accepting claims. Trust increases brand loyalty, purchase intentions, and post-purchase satisfaction.
     When the agent of persuasion is viewed by the target of persuasion as listening well, perceptions of competence of the agent grow. Interestingly, perceptions of the target of persuasion in their own competence also grow.
     The accuracy of all these statements does depend on our definition of good listening, though. And the definition of good listening is necessary if we’re to make use of the findings to improve our skills.
     Some listening skills covered by the researchers’ definition consist of verbal behaviors. Examples include: 
  • Ask follow-up questions. These request more details on what the target of persuasion has just said. 
  • Paraphrase what the target has said. Changing the precise phrasing used by the target is evidence you’re paying attention and not mocking. 
  • Exclaim on what’s said. Periodically saying short phrases like “I see” and “Oh, interesting” signal attention without needing to interrupt the target. 
  • Be attentively silent. Providing the opportunity for the target to complete expressing themselves projects receptivity to the message.
     Some listening skills concern nonverbal behaviors, such as looking at the target, smiling, and nodding.
     These verbal and nonverbal behaviors are observable. In their review, the researchers also highlight what is called “benevolent intentions,” an element which is not directly observable. This consists of the agent of persuasion’s positive regard for the target.
     Researchers at University of Texas-Arlington, University of Chile, and Universidad del Desarrollo studied “active empathic listening,” which refers to a salesperson integrating a client’s words and nonverbal messages for an understanding of the client’s beliefs, feelings, and intentions. These researchers measured salesperson self-rated AEL using questionnaire items, “I listen for more than just the spoken words,” “I ask questions that show my understanding of my customer’s position,” “I show my customers that I am listening by my body language (e.g. head nods),” and, “I sense why my customers feel the way they do.”
     When AEL was carried out, the client rated the service as being of higher quality than otherwise. This held true even if the client didn’t like the salesperson.

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