I’ve spent most of my career on one side or the other of advertising. That’s a bit precarious in the icebreaking stage, when someone asks what you do for a living. The moment you mention advertising they forget it’s your profession and because they are ad consumers, they award themselves EXPERT status.
This leads to an energetic discussion about the ads they love or hate, followed by what’s wrong with advertising in general and usually winds up with an idea they’ve had for an ad.
Normally this entertains me and I can hold up my end.
Occasionally, I pretend I’ve passed out and fall off my chair.
No one’s listening
It’s the rare person who prompts me with a question about what I do and then really listens.
Nancy Kline writes “We think we listen but we don’t. We finish each other’s sentences, we interrupt each other, we moan together, we fill in the pauses with our own stories, we look at our watches, we sigh, frown, tap our finger, read the paper or walk away. We give advice, give advice and give advice.”
Do you think you listen?
I suspect you can go through your entire day without really listening. You may think you do, but if you’re already formulating the advice your going to give, waiting to interrupt with your experience or wondering what’s on the canteen lunch menu – that doesn’t count.
Really listening, looking that person in the eye, nodding, smiling encouragingly, with no other thoughts but to pay attention to what they are saying, is a rare and wonderful thing.
Take the challenge
Challenge yourself to try this at least once a day: really listen. Let the other person talk uninterrupted until they’ve finished and then prompt them with a question that will help further their thinking.
The result will surprise you. They will solve their own issues in much more innovative ways than you could have suggested and they will take 100% of the advice, because it’s their own.
They’ll say you’re amazing
Even more interesting, they will tell you that your suggestions were excellent and you’re a great conversationalist, without ever realizing you’ve allowed them to do all the talking.