The picture and quote to the right pop up every so often as I scroll through various social media sites. I am sure you’ve seen it before too.
It always makes me pause… And reflect…
…about recent interactions with co-workers, clients, friends, family and the last store employee or banking representative I engaged with.
Geez…it’s easy to find people to identify as guilty of ‘listening only to reply’. I run into them all the time!
You know, those people who are ready with their standard reply to your frustration with a recent project – “This too shall pass”.
Or the competitive types who are not really listening to your vacation story, but are thinking of a vacation experience they had that will top yours – and how to sell it to you.
But I must admit, I’ve done it too!
On days we are overwhelmed and busy and want to move on to the next thing, we are all guilty of not listening to what is really being said to us by the people we interact with.
“Most failures of understanding are not due to self-absorption, or bad faith, but our own need to say something. We tend to react to what is said rather than concentrating on what the other person is trying to express.” The Lost Art of Listening by Michael R. Nichols, PhD
Listening and Understanding – Hearing What is Really Being Said
In a customer-centric business, the art of listening is the most valuable asset employees can develop.
For a successful interaction with a customer or a client, whether it be to initiate a sale transaction or acknowledge a problem, the priority should be on listening to understand exactly what THIS person is saying. The one standing right in front of you, talking.
In too many situations, we assume what the person is going to say, ask for, complain about, etc. and the robotic response is on the tip of our tongue before they even finish their sentence.
But while the words may be the same, the reason behind the person’s need to share these thoughts with you may be entirely different from the guy standing on line behind him.
In order to really listen we must:
- Be present. Just be with the person. Whether at a desk or in a retail environment, stop looking at other things. Make eye contact. Show the person you are focused and engaged in this discussion.
- Ask questions for clarification. It’s not being nosy. It’s being sure you ‘get’ what they are saying before jumping to conclusions.
- Acknowledge and validate their thoughts and feelings. Tell them you ‘get it’ or … that you don’t! Instead of saying, “That’s ridiculous” or “It can’t be that way.”, try “I never thought of it that way!” Allow them the opportunity to express what they mean. This situation is real to this person.
- Respond accordingly. Repeat back their concern and what you will do to assist, solve or be part of whatever they may be suggesting. Let them know you understand.
Each day we have multiple opportunities to comment and react to articles, to posts, to news items. You have plenty of places to ‘say something’ should you need to.
When you have a person in front of you – listening, understanding and responding accordingly to what they are saying will help you develop relationship and engagement.
And, possibly, a new friend or client!
Do you have a story where someone truly listened – or not? Please share in the comment section below.
Do you know if your customer service representatives are understanding your clients? Give me a call and I’ll tell you how we can help you know for sure!