“Hey, Jack! How was your trip to Cuba?”
“Hey, Tom! Actually, it was a disaster. We were hit by the tail end of the hurricane, which meant intense rains and flooding. All our activities were drowned out.”
“Yikes. That reminds me of the time we went to the Bahamas and there was a major storm. We couldn’t even get to our hotel and had to spend the night in the airport. Would never go to the Caribbean again.”
What happened there? A typical conversation, right?
Actually, there’s something fundamentally important missing in this exchange, and that’s…the art of listening. Let me explain.
Listening, according to traditional Chinese script, is much more than just lending an ear. And, as such, the ancient Chinese character or symbol for the word “listening” contains 5 elements: ear, eyes, heart, “king” and one*. As a fully integrated act, listening therefore is not only the act of hearing, it is something you do with your eyes, your heart, as well as your undivided attention to the person you are talking to.
Taking that into consideration, how often can we say we make our conversation partner “king” (or “queen”) of our unmitigated attention? How good are we at listening to a client with our heart? And how good are we at listening – just for the sake of listening?
In this day and age, we all seem to be on a mission when it comes to communication: to make a sale, to share an opinion, to make a point. There’s always some goal in mind, and if I may say so, it’s often self-interested. Take Jack, for example, in the opening dialogue; all he wanted to do was tell his story instead of letting Tom relate his experience.
What if we could just listen without any other motivation but to give? To be fully present without any goal or opinion?
Could we shift the paradigm of communication?
A month ago, a very ambitious client came to see me in great frustration. He was not getting the leads he could, not reaching the sales goals he wanted, he was told he talked too much and that he was pushy.
I asked him: “When you call or meet with a client, do you find out about who they are first? What their needs are? Do you let them talk? Do you listen?”
As the conversation unraveled, my client began to realize that he was putting his goals and ambition to make a sale ahead of the needs of the client. He was not making his conversation partner “king” or “queen” of his attention. In other words, he was talking too much instead of listening.
One month later, after having changed his strategy, my client returned. This time, he was excited: things were going really well, he loved his job and was signing up one client after the next! But most of all, they were telling him they felt they mattered.
And what was his simple strategy? He was asking questions. He was listening.
Those two things alone can open a vast sphere of possibilities when it comes to communication. By listening with your full heart and mind, without any expectation, you make people feel you care. You allow them to share and to want to connect with you. This can have significant ramifications, as you build trust and open the pathways to even greater sharing.
Communication is much more than striking a goal. It’s a means of exploring endless possibilities you had never imagined.
So, the next time you want to blurt out how great your project is, how amazing your vacation was, how fantastic your product is – ask a question and just listen.
It may be hard initially to put the chatter of your mind aside, but try it. With time, the results will settle in, and they will be nothing short of wonderful.
*There are various interpretations of the symbol, but this seems to be a fairly reliable source: https://www.theepochtimes.com/the-profundity-of-the-character-listen-in-chinese_2230261.html