2 Key Elicitation Techniques: Listen and Be Silent

There are not enough listening ears. That’s been an issue for years as people have become more embedded into the quiet, digital space. In the COVID-19 environment, businesses are anxious to learn what they should be doing next. Business as usual isn’t, these days, and is not likely to return to the way it was before COVID-19.

A great way to learn is to listen to your employees, customers, partners and supply chain. We need to pull out our conversational toolkit, since those answers aren’t on social media or the Internet. They’re in people’s brains, sometimes deep into people’s brains.

I have been helping companies develop interviewing and elicitation skills for a good 20 years. Here are a couple of tips I’ll share in this blog: listening and keeping silent.

Be a Good Listener

“Seek first to understand then to be understood.” Steve Covey’s 5th Habit

Good listeners look beyond the words, and observe the tone, what’s not said, confidence and body language. These listening skills will help you be more creative to probe for more information.

Another facet to be a good listener is to get grounded before you connect with the other person. I have learned that “how you are” is often more important than the thorough business preparation of the questions you want answered. I want to forget about me, and to concentrate on the other person. I want to get myself on their channel, sitting in their chair in my own mind. This also helps to prepare me for the conversation’s flow. Often enough, conversations don’t go as planned. I must be flexible.

Lay aside your preconceived notions. Many of us listen for what we think is the right answer or for what we want to hear (biases). We don’t listen to the full story that the other person tells us. Listen and put your ego aside. This is particularly important today as you listen to your employees, customers and suppliers. Be open minded and listen fully.

If you are connecting on a teleconference, listen for a change in the other person’s tone of voice, pitch, cadence, speed of speech, hesitation, sigh, shallow breathing, silence or extra um’s and ah’s. There are so many cues when you listen for more than what they say or don’t say. Trust your intuition. It’s usually right.

When dealing with people on video or in-person, know that it’s easier for them to manipulate their smiles and facial expressions, and less easy for them to control other parts of their body such as their shoulders, arms, legs, feet and breathing. If their words don’t match their body expression, their body expression is probably your cue to work from.

6 Tips to Improve Your Listening Skill

– Pay attention and minimize the time you monopolize the conversation.
– Ask open-ended questions that let the other person know you’re listening.
– Listen non-judgmentally to their answers.
– Mirror their responses to make sure you understand.
– Validate what they’re saying.
– Empathize and respond to their feelings.

Be Silent and Honor Silence

How many times have you heard people ask, “Do you have any questions or comments?” And they wait a couple of seconds and say, “No, OK onto the next thing.” Silence is one of my favorites. I think it’s a sign of respect when you give the other person time to deliberate before you continue the conversation. Don’t be in such a rush. You don’t need to fill in the time with words. Just give the other person or people time to think. This is really crucial when you’re seeking information. I find in Win/Loss interviews, it’s important to give the other person enough time to answer. If you rush people, they sense it. You won’t get such great information since you make them feel uncomfortable. The same goes for any conversation.

If you have a chatty person, just be quiet and let them talk. Don’t feel like you need to say much once they get going, aside from the occasional grunt to let them know you’re still listening. You may have to guide the conversation a bit or stop them to probe more deeply on some points.

Sometimes you must interrupt a big talker and mirror what they’ve just said to move them onto the next point in your conversation. I recall having conversations with people where I have said very little. At the end they’ve thanked me for the conversation and let me know how much they’ve learned.

Remember as Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Good luck with these important conversations!

If your organization wants to improve its conversation, interviewing and elicitation techniques, we offer virtual elicitation training. Check out our SCIP Elicitation Techniques webinar AMA (Ask me anything) on SCIP’s website. (members only)

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