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The art of listening

The art of listening

Marie-Josée Bourque
Marie-Josée Bourque

This is nothing new. This topic has been revisited many times, and from many angles. Search for it on Google, and 18 300 000 results come up in 0.55 seconds. Why, then, when there’s so much information and so many resources available to help us do it, is it so hard to listen? To be fully “present” – without interrupting! – in a conversation?

Does this difficulty show a lack of openness? Listening means being aware of another person’s point of view – possibly one that is different than our own. Are we ready to discuss things? To support our argument objectively? To accept that the other person may be right, and that we might be wrong?

Maybe it’s a sign of over confidence. When you’re convinced you’re right, it’s more difficult to consider that others might have relevant points of view. So we don’t listen to them. The opposite is also possible. When you have low self-confidence, you can easily take an opinion that differs from yours as a challenge. So you don’t listen.

Is it maybe intellectual laziness? Considering someone else’s point of view takes effort. An effort to understand, and to walk in someone else’s shoes for a few moments. It’s often said that people only listen to reply, not to understand. Maybe this keeps things simple for us.

But what happens when we make the effort to listen to understand? Many positive things arise.

  • An atmosphere of trust is established.
  • Communication is more effective, richer.
  • The two parties involved have a greater sense of satisfaction, even if they don’t share the same opinion.
  • Concrete actions follow.
  • Credibility is established.
  • Value is created.

It’s clear that all these questions also apply to brands. In this era of social media dominance and the internationalization of communications, businesses that don’t listen to their consumers and don’t adapt their offer to line up with new habits, expectations and needs are destined to fade away. Some businesses who were leaders for many years have already succumbed to this. Think of Kodak, Blockbuster, Radio Shack, Sears or Toys R Us.

That said, companies who do listen – taking the time to understand their customers and adjust their offer accordingly – and who are, above all, not afraid to question everything when necessary, have an infinite potential for growth.

How does a brand go about listening? There are many ways of doing this: your website, social media, customer loyalty program, employees, providers, distribution network . . . These are all points of contact with your consumers that can tell you how healthy your brand is. External tools like satisfaction surveys or purchased marketing/media data can also contribute, depending on what resources are available.

Listening certainly takes work, time and money. But there’s no doubt that listening to understand pays off!