My friend Robert Mayo commented on my blog post about the S.O.L.E.R. approach to non-verbal listening skills. This is what he said about eye contact:

“As always you share great advice Devin. Today I was meeting with someone at Panera Bread while someone else was cleaning the windows behind the person I was meeting with. It was hard to maintain eye contact while being distracted.” (By the way, Robert is a great guy and an amazing auctioneer here in Kansas City. I once witnessed him ever so skillfully execute a liquidation for a furniture store in Kansas City and it was pure magic. You can learn more about his services at

The reason I bring up Robert’s comment is because he raises a very good point: even if we truly care about making the person our focus, circumstances can often times get in the way of good listening. In the book, “25 Ways to Win with People,” (by John Maxwell and Dr. Les Parrott) Mr. Maxwell lists 6 barriers you must overcome in order to, as he so eloquently puts it, “Listen with your heart.” The six barriers are:

-Distractions (cell phone ringing, television, etc.)

-Defensiveness (taking the person’s complaints or criticism as a personal attack and reacting accordingly).

-Closed-mindedness (you think you already have all the answers and don’t need to hear what the person has to say).

-Projection (“attributing your own thoughts and feelings to others”)

-Assumptions (jumping to conclusions)

-Pride (being full of yourself)

Mr. Maxwell says our goal should be to eliminate as many of these barriers as possible. Of course, as in the instance of my friend Robert, sometimes distractions are nearly impossible to eliminate. But as distractions arise such as people walking by or background music playing in a restaurant, focusing on the principles in S.O.L.E.R. works like magic in breaking down these barriers.

The book is full of great information on how to, as the subtitle says, “Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks.” Do yourself a favor and get the book – I highly recommend it. Again, it is “25 Ways to Win with People” by John Maxwell and Dr. Les Parrott.