We are all familiar with the importance of listening.
Indeed, from an early age we are taught to listen, to pay attention to what is being directed at us.
To improve our skills we can take courses on “Active Listening, “Effective Listening”, and even “When to Listen.”
In fact, with all the attention that is placed upon listening it is fairly safe to assume that most of us are pretty good listeners.
Today I would like to introduce a new habit, one that I place far above listening as listening is a skill most of us have mastered but this new habit is rare indeed.
It is The Habit of Hearing.
The Habit of Hearing is perhaps our greatest ally in turning resistance to support and conflict into harmony, and yet it is one we practice so poorly.
Last week I was in a store looking to purchase a new laptop. I asked the sales associate about a particular brand. He seemed determined to sell me a different brand and when I offered some resistance to that brand he completely ignored my concern and continued speaking its praise. I tried a second time and was met with exactly the same response.
Needless to say I left that store empty-handed.
Later that afternoon I was leaving a message for a contractor. I have an unusual first name and my custom has long been to spell my name whenever leaving a message. I said, “My first name is Rael, R.A.E.L” and I heard her repeat it back to me R.E.A.L.
I chose not to correct her as I’ve grown accustomed to that response and do not feel it is my duty to teach others the importance of hearing what they’re listening to.
Yesterday morning I called a supplier with the question about our bill.
The moment I stated my reason for calling the person on the other the phone immediately launched into the details of a “special offer” only available to “our most valuable customers” and spent 90 seconds telling me how special I am and why I should not hesitate to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime offer.
When I interrupted (for the third time) to repeat my question about my bill he finally stopped talking long enough to say, “I will have to transfer you to another department.”
The Habit of Hearing is vital not only to success in our lives but also for our levels of enjoyment. Hearing what is being said to us grants us access to the other parties’ thoughts and feelings thereby offering us the best possible opportunity for resolving conflict and improving relationships.
In writing this blog I am reminded of a meeting I had many years ago with a salesperson representing a photocopy company. They had brought a machine over as a demo and after a day or two he had stopped by to see whether we liked it.
I reminded him that we had specifically requested a machine that could duplex (print double-sided copies) and this model couldn’t.
I will never forget his answer. He looked at me and with a huge grin on his face replied “That’s one of the great features of this machine. Not having a duplexer means you have an opportunity to get out of the office for a while and head over to Staples each time you need double-sided copies which is a great way to take a break.”
He had listened to, and not heard, our insistence on a duplexing machine and then downplayed its importance by completely disregarding our concerns.
And guess what? He didn’t get our business.
Listening is easy. Hearing is hard. It requires discipline and focus.
It also signals respect
The Habit of Hearing. It’s not optional.
Can you see what I’m saying?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.