Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Crazy Guy Taught Me to Be a Better Listener

Little did I know that I was going to learn how to be a better listener when I decided to watch Harvey with Jimmy Stewart …

Let me back up. I was flipping through the channels the other night when Harvey, a very old movie, caught my attention. Harvey is about a man, Elwood Dowd, who believes he hangs out with a 6’3’’ white rabbit named Harvey. Harvey even wears a bowtie. Classy rabbit.

I immediately related to this movie because I have an imaginary friend named Barney. He’s a 5’4” accountant, and an all-around normal guy. Maybe my friend isn’t as exciting as a rabbit, but he gets the job done in the imaginary friend department.

So Barney and I are watching Harvey, and there’s a scene where Elwood is sitting in the alley behind a bar, talking to his psychiatrist and his nurse. Both of them think he’s crazy, what with his imaginary friend/rabbit and all. But they are having a talk about what Elwood loves most in life.

He says that he loves talking to people.

He loves talking to people. In almost any business, this is what we do—we talk to people.

But how much do we really listen with both ears? A lot of us listen for what we need, but is this the same thing as what our clients, our friends and our family members need?

Back to Harvey.

Harvey loved meeting strangers in bars. Complete strangers would have friendly conversations with Elwood, and pretty soon they would be friends. Elwood’s new friends would tell him their problems—their troubles and worries about the future.

And as Elwood explains this to his nurse and psychiatrist, he says, “And to them, all of their problems and all of their hopes are big…they are BIG.”

BIG. It’s the same thing when we talk to people. Whether they are talking, joking, or complaining to us … everything going on underneath is BIG.

So if you want to know how to be a better listener, think about this: When you are talking to someone else, they are—and should be—the only thing in the world during those conversations.

Your clients don’t care if you have a deadline you are rushing to meet. They don’t care if you had a bad morning and got a ticket on the way in. They care about their big problems. And what will differentiate you from your competitors is if you learn how to be a better listener, and that starts with responding to your clients as if you think their problems are big.

I tried to explain this to my imaginary friend Barney, but he wasn’t listening. Maybe you can be a better listener …

As you interact with clients (or friends and family members for that matter), remember that your job is to make sure you understand that their problems are big. If you want to be a better listener, you truly have to understand that no matter how trivial something seems to you, it’s a big deal to the person telling you.

I have to go now. Barney seems to be getting really jealous of all the attention I’m giving you, so I have to take him out to get some Pinkberry.

Today’s “be a better listener” challenge: 

Treat everything your clients and friends tell you like it is the biggest thing in the world. Throw all of your attention on to them!

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