When I took my college communication courses, a wide selection was available. Persuasive speaking, voice and articulation, interpersonal relationships, and rhetorical theory.
But there weren’t many that taught the important skill of listening.
Listening is so important but yet many people don’t know how to do it. In other words, they may know how to stop talking but they don’t understand how to let the other person know they’ve heard them.
The art of mirroring
I actually discovered a great course on listening while taking counseling training classes. I was amazed by this information that showed me how to let others know that I truly heard what they were saying.
A powerful technique to use is called “mirroring.” Let’s say a co-worker is telling you about an upcoming holiday when their in-laws will be visiting. And it’s not a visit they’re particularly excited about. Here’s how the conversation may go:
Seth: Thanksgiving… I love the holiday but my in-laws are coming to stay with us and to be honest, I’m not looking forward to it. Every time they come in, my father-in-law wants to know when I’m going to get “a real job” and my mother-in-law criticizes every move my young son makes.
Me: Wow, your in-laws sound as though they may be overly critical.
Seth: You’re telling me! Absolutely. It drives me crazy.
Me: It seems these visits are really frustrating…
Seth: They definitely are. I’ve tried to talk to my wife about it but she just waves me away like I’m making too much of it. But it stresses me out. That’s the last thing I want for my holiday.
Me: It sounds like you’re stressed over your in-laws and your wife for not listening to your concerns.
Seth: Exactly! I guess I’m going to have to try to talk to my wife one more time about it. We need to find a way to solve this before I go off on everyone!
Me: Sounds like you’ve decided to do something productive like searching for a solution that will work. I’m sure your wife will appreciate it.
Seth: I hope… hey, thanks so much for listening. I feel better and more resolved to not let this ruin my holiday. You know, you should charge for these sessions!
Did you see the “mirroring?”
When someone is talking with you, the “mirroring” occurs when you summarize what they’ve just said and repeat it back to them. It lets the other person know that you’ve really heard what they’ve just said.
This is one of the most precious gifts you can give to someone. Our world is chaotic with most people too busy to stop and really listen to one another. When someone shows true interest in another person, the results can be nothing short of remarkable.
You may end up making someone feel a lot better, which in turn can alleviate their stress, which in turn can prevent them from not coping well with their stress by either overeating, taking risks while driving in traffic, or picking a fight with a loved one.
We all just want to be heard.
Put yourself in their shoes
Another way to show someone that you have a clue is to see things from their point of view.
When dealing with someone who is irritated (whether at you or your company), it’s always a powerful act to let them know you completely agree with their viewpoint. Even if you’re not 100% sure you agree, taking that step to bridge the gap will cause the rest of the conversation to go much more smoothly.
When you take the time to look at a situation from another person’s point of view, you are giving him or her respect. Again, in our fast-paced world, not many people feel respected in their day-to-day interactions with others.
Carefully studying the other person’s point of view is also a very potent advertising exercise.
This is exactly why more companies are using buyer personas when developing content marketing. When you take the time to understand what motivates your potential buyer, what frustrations they deal with, and what’s on their “wish list” for your type of product or service, then you’re able to write the kind of content that will reach them.
Imagine yourself as that other person. What are they feeling? Do they feel frustrated and why? What do they desire? What would it mean to them to get it?
When you uncover the answers to these questions, you’ll have the kind of research that will put your marketing above and beyond your competitor’s.
Many people don’t take the time to listen because they feel they’re too busy to do so. But if you do take time to let other people know you’re tuned in to their world, you may be surprised how your own life will improve.
Just don’t be surprised when people ask why you’re not a psychologist. ;-)