Listen. Don’t Interrupt. Then Listen Some More.
Jun 11, 2012
I remember when I was young, we’d sit around the dinner table sharing the happenings of our day – it was quite the ritual. Dad would turn the “floor” over to my older brother and he’d tell us of the latest “goings-on” in junior high or about the motorcycle jump that he and his buddy had spent hours building. We all had our turn, but it was always important to wait your turn – there was never any interrupting the person who “had the floor.” This provided an opportunity to really listen and soak-up all there was to learn about what that person had done that day. It really gave us a chance to get to know each other and learn about what was meaningful to that person.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t realize all this at that point in time – but as I look back on it and think about how those times shaped me, I realize how important it really was. When I first entered into the creative field more than 17 years ago I was fortunate enough to be greeted by a seasoned pro who truly understood the value of “active listening.” He always encouraged me to share my thoughts and vigorously participate in brainstorming sessions, but always kept a strong focus on being an attentive audience when the client had insights to share.
Active Listening is a term coined by Dr. Thomas Gordon, an American clinical psychologist and colleague of Carl Rogers. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in teaching communication skills and conflict resolution methods to parents, teachers, leaders, women, youth and salespeople. The model he developed came to be known as the Gordon Model or the Gordon Method, a complete and integrated system for building and maintaining effective relationships.
Think about it. As marketers what are we paid to do? We’re paid to provide insight and guidance on how best to communicate with a specific audience. This means we must understand our client’s business and customers. What better way to learn from our clients than to effectively listen and absorb as much about their business and customers as possible.
It’s one of the most important things we can do to deepen our relationship and earn our value as a business partner.
I mean, how can we form meaningful opinions and make really thoughtful assumptive leaps if we don’t listen and learn from the expert? We’re pros at imagining unique, compelling ways to tell a story, but if we don’t understand the context of that story, how can we expect to create effective work?
It seems like a really simple concept, but remember that everyone — I mean everyone — loves the sound of their own voice. It’s not always ego, but do understand that everyone wants to be heard. As marcom professionals, it’s our duty to exhibit some restraint and listen. Be willing to ask a question – then, just listen.
Next time you have the opportunity to engage with a client, make sure you have some questions that when answered, will allow you to offer up some really compelling insight. Learning about a specific audiences’ primary concerns or care-abouts might provide you with what you need to break down a “barrier to entry” or solve a challenge that’s kept your client from entering into a new market.
That’s true value. That’s “partner-worthy.”
Giving your client the chance to talk freely and share will create inherent value in the relationship you have with them.
Remember, everyone wants to be heard. And what you hear (when listening intently) could be the difference between an “ok idea” and a business “growth idea.”
The key elements of active listening are published atMindTools.com. This version is adapted from Dr. Thomas Gordon’s key elements, but I thought it to be a bit more easily applied to most any situation. It wasn’t filled with specific psychology “speak” and seemed easy to digest.
Pay Attention.Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.
Show That You Are Listening.Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
Provide Feedback.Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
Defer Judgment.Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
Respond Appropriately.Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.