One of the most necessary and yet most difficult skills to master in this day and age is the art of listening. Let’s face it…we live in the generation of instant answers, google everything, ask Siri and get it done now. We are often so engrossed in social media that we neglect to truly listen to one another in a way that communicates “I am fully present with you and following”. Being able to actively listen is really an art form and takes some training but the payoff in your business, relationships, and family is well worth the effort.
As a licensed therapist, I would like to share some tricks of the trade that taught me how to “listen well”. These tips will help you to know how to listen and stay engaged.. how to REALLY hear what is being said (even without the words) and how to respond in way that elicits more information. You will find that your audience (client, family or friend) feels more supported, heard, and connected to you and your brand through the process.
Why does it matter how I listen?
Great question! Listening is not just allowing your ears to pick up sound…it is an engagement (we know this as women) and it takes intentionality. Listening is more than just taking an order or getting some details…this is an opportunity to make a first impression and build trust with you and your brand.
Here are the top 3 ways to be a better listener:
Use “Reflective Statements”
Reflective Statements are similar to paraphrasing but different in that you are seeking to understand. You are highlighting words that the person speaking to you have used in the description of their need or conversation. You are reflecting back what you understand to be the request or the problem in order to truly clarify you understand. It sounds something like “I want to make sure I am getting this right…you would like…” or “I thought I heard you say….am I getting this?” You are respectfully repeating and reflecting what you hear to be the need and in turn create a sense of support and safety for your consumer. You have now earned their trust that you care about what they are expressing and are attempting to get it JUST RIGHT!
Now that you have earned some trust by reflecting back the request and showing your intention to get it right and understand, do not be surprised if you hear a level of frustration with a previous experience or concerns. If you do experience some push back, the best way to diffuse the situation and stay on course with earning the trust of the consumer is to make their frustration sound completely normal and understandable.
It may sound counterintuitive, but it is actually very effective. The customer may expect that you will argue with them or try to prove that the experience is inaccurate, however, this backfires because it totally invalidates their concerns and puts them back in the seat of not trusting in your product or in your service. Normalizing the concerns that they share validates their concerns and emotions. The feeling of being validated continues to build trust in you and your capabilities. Here are some ways to respond to frustration or concerns about a product:
– “I know where you are coming from”
– “I can see how that would be frustrating/upsetting/concerning”
– “I think your concern is very understandable and I will make note of it”
– “I would probably feel the same way and want to make sure this doesn’t happen again”
These responses validate the customer and build the trust that they have in you and your ability to execute the order.
Demonstrate Empathy & Make Your Pitch
Now that you have listened intently and demonstrated your understanding with reflective statements as well as normalized any concerns, you have an opportunity to connect with your customer. They came to you to solve a problem and believe you have the skills to do it! You have a pretty clear understanding of the problem and can practice empathy. Empathy is the experience within yourself of the emotional upheaval they have experienced. Your customer has high hopes you can provide a solution with your product or service. When you can tap into your own emotions or relate the problem to something similar in your life, you can experience and deliver empathy. Empathy is powerful because it allows you to tune into the problem on an emotional level. At this moment, you may find that you have even more intuition as to how you can solve it and convey your understanding through that emotional connection. This is not sympathy…sympathy carries a tone of being condescending…as though you have never had a problem but are “sorry to hear” that they have one. Empathy is feeling it at your core and having a keen sense of what to say to let the consumer know you have an answer. Purchases are often made based on emotion. People buy things because they want to feel better, solve a problem, or relieve a negative emotion. This is when you make your pitch! You have connected emotionally and are here to bring relief. You are confident that your service is the answer to the problem and you can explain how you see the problem being solved in a way that is tailored to the emotional needs of the customer.
One last note in this process is to be authentic. You may have followed the first 3 steps and found yourself at a crossroads. If you listened intently and empathized and found at your core that you are NOT the answer… be honest.
Advise your customer that you hear them and know the feeling they have and want to solve it which may come through an alternative service, method, or provider. It may not be you or your product…and that’s ok! You are being authentic and it will stick with them more than you know. Customer’s value feeling heard and guided on the journey just like any client in therapy. Your authentic response and genuine desire to help, even if it means you aren’t the right fit right now, leads to a positive memory of the interaction and referrals in the future. You end up with the right customers and you provide service that best suites everyone.