What listening can do for your business
I cowered in the corner of the modern looking office of the head of the college music department. There were two walls of windows separating us from the hallway. Any other students or professors walking by could easily see that I was sobbing.
“It’s your lucky day, Abby. Because the handbook was not updated with the School of the Arts’ new policy, you’ll be able to graduate as long as you pass this last piano test. I want you to know that if it were up to me, I would be asking you to leave the school now. Especially after this last email you sent me.”
I opened my mouth to explain, but he silenced me immediately.
“This is not the time to speak. This is the time to listen.” My academic advisor, who sat stone-faced next to him, nodded a warning. When he was certain I was not going to attempt to defend myself, he proceeded to tell me all the reasons he’d like to see me on academic probation, or better yet, kicked out of school. Never did he offer to LISTEN to me, to learn that he’d grossly misunderstood my words of pain in that email, to hear that I’d been facing acute depression due to the recent death of my father, brother, and grandfather, all within the last year. Never did he ask how I was doing in catching up on all the work I’d missed from the weeks I’d taken off to care for my father.
He seemed like a nice man—at first. And then he kept going on and on about all of their amazing products, assuming what I needed and could afford. In the end, he handed me quotes which were far outside of my price range and included items I really didn’t need.
“If you put $200 down now as a deposit, we can have someone out tomorrow, Mrs. Turner,” he assured me.
“I really need to talk this all over with my husband and get back to you. Can I just call you tomorrow with our decision?”
“Well, yes, technically. But if you pay the deposit now, it’s completely refundable.”
“I’ll just call you tomorrow. And is there any reason I can’t just have the current unit fixed?”
“Well, technically it will work if you just want to have it fixed, but…” and he listed all the wonderfully essential features I’d forfeit by choosing that option. I took my business elsewhere. Why? Because he did not LISTEN to what I needed, but instead pushed his own agenda.
“Why are you crying? I’m giving you good news. There’s nothing serious that is causing your pain. You’re free to go home.” The emergency room doctor patted me on the hand and then walked out of the room without waiting for an explanation. He was clearly irritated that I wasn’t grateful for my health.
But I was still in terrible pain.
“I just want you to make the pain go away!” I hollered after him. But he didn’t hear me. I tried to stop the tears, but the morphine was wearing off and the pain was intensifying again. And now I was supposed to go home and wait for weeks to get an appointment just so yet another specialist could throw yet another medicine at me and hope it helped.
My husband helped me out of bed and I limped out of the hospital and into the car, the pain in my stomach intensifying with every step.
“For once, I just want a doctor who will LISTEN to me!” I moaned, as soon as I was inside the safety of my own vehicle. I knew I’d probably never go back to that hospital if I could help it.
We all have stories like these, don’t we? Stories involving some professional or another we think we should be able to trust, taking advantage of, or, at the very least, misunderstanding us. We’ve all been there, most of us many times, because these situations are prevalent. We shake our heads, shrug our shoulders and say, “that’s just the way it is.”
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if listening was the answer and listening training was made available for every profession?
We are pleased to announce that we are now offering the opportunity for businesses to be trained in listening and join The Listening Movement!
Not only does listening improve the experience of the consumer, it enhances the company from the inside out. Just as we all have stories of not being listened to as the consumer, we all have stories of not being listened to as the employee. I could tell you several of my own, and I can testify to the devastating effects of being unheard at work. Being unheard stifles creativity and productivity. It creates an environment of mistrust and causes a general sense of dissatisfaction within the workplace. It implies an expectation of perfection—or at the very least, an unlikely ability to mentally disassociate and depersonalize work.
I’ve never known anyone who successfully separated work life from home life. Our work does affect our relationships at home and vice versa. Moreover, we want our employees to feel happy and fulfilled working for our companies, but we don’t typically make a habit of listening to what they want and need. We must set aside these unhelpful expectations and habits if we want to create a fulfilling work environment.
When your employees feel heard, morale is improved, job retention is increased, and the next generation of leaders is naturally developed to carry on the business when you move on. When a company’s employees learn to listen to each other, they create a safe, caring place to work.
And when a company is a safe, caring place to work, it becomes a safe, caring place for those it serves as well.