Does your spouse say things to you like:
- You never listen to me.
- I told you that a hundred times.
- You always seem distracted.
- You’re always on that computer/phone.
- You’re always watching that TV.
- How come you never look me in the eyes?
Often those are signals of someone that wants to be heard. In our busy go-go-go lifestyles we’ve developed bad communication habits. We hear but we don’t listen.
In all fairness, that’s partially a response to the fact that we are on sensory overload. Everywhere you look there’s something screaming “Try Me!” or “Buy Me!”. On TV, the Internet, while we drive. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t escape.
- Research indicates the average consumer is bombarded by anywhere from 1600-6000 messages a day. That’s as many as 250 per hour or 4 per minute!
- The average office worker checks their email 30 times per hour.
- And the average human attention span is 8 seconds in 2012, down from 12 seconds in 2000. That’s a 33% decrease in 12 years. Compare that to the attention span of a goldfish at 9 seconds and you can see we have a problem.
So how do we respond to this bombardment? We ignore. It’s a survival mechanism. But what we need to survive is different than what we need to thrive.
While some plants need less light to survive, others need more light to thrive. The same is true about the amount of water plants need.
It’s also true with listening. There are certain channels we need to turn the volume down on but there are others we need to turn the volume up on.
Sure, we should limit our exposure to advertising. I’ve been in marketing most of my life and I understand the laws of traditional marketing. The traditional law says the louder you bang your drum, the more likely people will see you, hear you, and in turn adopt your product or service.
That’s not so true anymore.
Customers are tired of being pounded and they are ignoring traditional marketing. The companies that are thriving are listening companies. They build caring communities for their consumers, then listen and respond. That’s called relationship marketing.
Funny, corporations have finally learned the key principle to inter-personal relationships - people who are heard, feel valued. While we need to turn the volume down on advertising we need to crank up the volume on our meaningful relationships.
How to listen better
So how can we listen better and breathe life into our relationships at work and home?
- Pick your place – try to talk in a place that is safe and non-threatening
- Avoid triggers- don’t say things that you know will start an argument
- Ask the right questions, like:
- What was the best thing about your day?
- Did anything interesting happen today?
- How did that make you feel?
- Be attentive – Focus, avoid distractions. Turn off the TV, phone,computer
- Don’t judge – People don’t need a judge, they need an advocate
- Put yourself in their shoes
- Don’t try to fix everything – sometimes people just need to vent
Tell someone you care by giving the gift of listening today.
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Image: Microsoft Photos/Royalty-Free/Corbis