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The Power of Listening for Independent Consultants

Learning how to listen well may sound like such a simple idea, maybe even a little bit too simple. But sometimes, it’s the little things that can help you to make the biggest strides forward. What is the benefit of learning how to listen, and how can you fine-tune this underestimated skill?

A few months back, in two of our Digital Drinks sessions, we heard from Mark Simpson and Kevin Cunningham, who shared their expertise on building a better rapport with clients by taking an empathetic approach.

We have compiled some of the key takeaways from these sessions to fill you in with the how, the what and the why of listening.

How can I listen more effectively?

Listening, like anything, is a skill. As independent consultants, naturally, you are likely to be good communicators. But this is not to say that you are utilising this skill to its full potential.

Kevin explained that often when having a discussion, we are already thinking about what we are going to say next. Research shows that people typically only retain 25% of what they hear after listening. Luckily, there are a few simple solutions to supercharge your listening skills.

Be present. One of the key components of better listening is to take a step back and try to be present during the conversation. Slowing down and diverting our focus to what is being said will help us to digest it fully.

Have clear objectives. This will help you to concentrate during conversations with clients and appreciate the value of the interaction. If you understand what objectives you wish to achieve, this will resonate both in how you speak and how you listen.

Ask open-ended questions. Another way you can enhance clarity and get more out of a conversation is through asking questions. Open-ended questions allow people to elaborate in ways they wouldn’t if not prompted. As Voltaire once said…

Judge a man by his questions, not by his answers.

Understand Mirroring. A word that came up consistently from both our speakers and attendees was mirroring. So, what exactly is it?

Mirroring in business means replicating the gestures and body language of the person you are speaking to. Mirroring typically works best in one-on-one conversations.

The act of mirroring someone’s mannerisms shows that you are in tune with them, listening and observing closely. The reason it’s such a helpful tool for moving conversations forward in a positive direction is because it establishes a deeper connection and helps people to relate to you.

For more on mirroring, read here.

The art (and science) of listening.

Our speaker Mark Simpson enlightened us on the link between listening and neuroscience.

Intelligence is something we largely associate with just the brain. While a lot of the action happens up there, there are several different points in our body where neurons are concentrated. Essentially, we have different ‘brains’ all over.

  • The Head Brain - how we make sense of the world around us.

  • The Heart Brain - how we deal with our emotions, compassion and values.


  • The Gut Brain - where we develop our intuition and physical sensations in response to situations.

These three different forms of intelligence sometimes may not work so well together. To prevent this conflict, it’s important to identify the source of our different sensations.

Ask yourself: is this a gut feeling? Or is this the Heart Brain talking?

  • When considering these different ‘brains’, a few things may come to mind. Some people may play with their hair when nervous, or cross their arms. Everyone’s body language manifests their emotions, so it is crucial to be able to observe this in ourselves and in others.

  • If you recognise that your gut brain is formulating a response, you can then divert this to the head brain for a more logical analysis. Or, if a situation needs to be considered with a bit more empathy, you might consider using the heart brain.

While the way others express themselves physically will vary from person to person, we can learn to pick up on subtle cues of how a person might be feeling. Truly listening to someone is more than taking in their words, it’s paying attention to how they say them.

Research shows that 70-93% of communication is non-verbal.

Having a grasp on the theory of multiple brain integration is a solid step towards better listening, both to our own selves and towards others.

Why is listening such an important skill?

Being a better listener leads to a more fulfilling life, both personally and professionally.

Not only will improved listening help to strengthen your existing client relationships, but it is a valuable sales tool. Boosting your chances of getting referrals, enhancing your brand image, and uncovering exciting new opportunities are just a few of the potential benefits.

An article by Forbes outlines empathy is the most important business skill.

Building more meaningful relationships begins at the listening level. If you are able to engage in a more genuine way, this will put the other person at ease and make them more inclined to listen to you.

When people feel heard, they trust you. In turn, they will reveal more. This open line of communication forms stronger interpersonal relationships and more constructive conversations. As you can better understand their needs, you are one step closer to achieving your goals.

Thank you to Kevin Cunningham, Mark Simpson, and the Camelot members for sharing your valuable insights during these sessions.

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