Listen up: How active listening can improve your business

Today’s blog is going back to basic, crucial skills. No, not how to post an image on Facebook. Today is about the most important, fundamental skill anyone providing a service, creating a product or running a business can have: the ability to listen well.

listening

Image source

What is active, empathetic listening?

Have you ever met someone who makes you feel like you’re the only person of concern in the world and that what you are saying is truly heard? You want to share more with him or her because s/he gets you. You are on the receiving end of active, empathetic listening and it is so important for any business.

An article called “Active Empathetic Listening and Selling Success: A Conceptual Framework” breaks it down for us. It asserts that listening has three stages: sensing, processing and responding. “Sensing refers to the actual receipt of messages, processing refers to activities that take place in the mind of the listener, while responding involves acknowledging receipt of messages”.

Empathy can be defined as “the ability to discern another person’s thoughts and feelings with some degree of accuracy and involves listening on an intuitive as well as a literal level”. In the context of listening, empathy operates as the ability “to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy, and with the emotional components and meanings…as if one were the other person, but without ever losing the ‘as if condition”.

Why is active, empathetic listening important?

Any business interaction starts as human engagement and the way you communicate lays the foundation for your professional relationship. The article argues that “[e]mpathetic listening is a critical part of the communication process and provides a supportive environment for the flow of messages between senders and receivers”.

It’s not just cold callers or people behind product counters that are salespeople. Whether you’re a freelance journalist or make craft beer in your garage, we all sell our product or service and we can all sharpen our sales skills. Active empathetic listening is a key skill in terms of your ability to sell. Here’s how empathy affects your ability to listen as a salesperson:

“When ‘sensing’, salespeople with strong empathy are more likely than those less endowed with empathy to be aware of more subtle cues from customers. When ‘processing’, salespeople with strong empathy are more likely than are less empathetic salespeople to understand the significance of messages, more likely to interpret and evaluate them correctly and, consequently, more likely to commit correct information to memory. When ‘responding’, empathetic salespeople are more likely to send back messages that assure their customers that they are on the same wave-length”.

For us at Pomegranite, translating a client’s real-world identity and resources into an online presence requires trust: we are the translators and representatives of a brand.  We need as much information as possible. Small businesses are generally small teams and often work very intuitively. This means that, often, a lot is assumed between the team rather than explicitly articulated. This type of listening allows you to tune into that relationship and bring up ideas for discussion.

How do I use it in my life?

Don’t be spooked by the big words. They were just to impress you. Active, empathetic listening is not difficult; in fact you probably do it all the time. But being aware of it will only make this sense more acute.

Let Shelley Sacks take you on this journey and try it out sometime:

[T]o really hear what another has to say we have to remove the agreement and disagreement. We have to try and stay with the person, with their pictures, with their thoughts, and see what they see and feel, without agreeing and disagreeing and letting our own thoughts run on internally. A good way to do this and focus more sharply on what someone is saying – to become a more active listener – is to consider what is being said in three ways. We can listen for the content of what is being said, we can listen to the feeling with which it is being said, and we can try and get a sense of the impulse or motivation in what is being said (from her handbook for her social sculpture Exchange Values).

When it comes down to it, the smoother and more satisfying your interactions are, the more repeat business you can ensure, the fewer dissatisfied customers you will have,  the deeper your relationships and the greater your feedback and opportunities.

It’s ALIVE!

Watching a little, baby website that you have created with your own two hands come to life and tell the story you imagined… is an amazing feeling. And when it goes LIVE! Yoh, yoh, yoh.

I know it’s early days, and the excitement is bound to wear off, but for now, it feels like a bit of a Frankenstein moment – in the best way possible, obviously.

When a website goes live

The world welcomes the #RoyalBaby – thanks to social media

Royal baby image

It amazes me that some brands/businesses are still reluctant to establish a presence on social media. In this day and age? Even the queen is doing it.

Earlier this week, the world was abuzz with the news of the impending birth of the #royalbaby – and no more so than on social networks. As Stephen Fry quipped on Twitter, “Labour has never been so popular,” adding dryly, “My guess is that it will be a baby.”

While the traditional easel was set out at Buckingham Palace announcing the birth of the newest heir to the throne (“Ta da!”), the royal family demonstrated that they are “hip with the times, yo” by posting the news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Did you even know that the British Monarchy have a Facebook page? Me neither! How thoroughly modern of them.

The image and announcement of the baby’s name, George Alexander Louis, as of 16 hours ago, has been shared 34 116 times, commented on 4366 times, and liked by 95 614 people. I know, right? And that’s just one image on the official British Monarchy page.

Twitter went into overdrive about the birth, with more than 500 000 tweets about the baby being sent before he was even born. Tweets announcing that the Duchess of Cambridge had gone into labour were viewed by 487 million Twitter users – again, before the birth.

I could go on and on with stats like these demonstrating just how great an influence social media platforms have in 2013, but you get the picture. Social media = powerful. If the British Monarchy are talking about labour on Twitter, I guess that tells you all you need to know, really.

Join the party.

Original blog: New Beginnings, 5 July 2013 (Sarah)

On 28 June, a week ago today, I turned 28 – my “crown” birthday, so I’m told, turning 28 on the 28th. Birthdays are strange days for me – days that usually cause me to look at my life and where I am, and see if it’s where I want to be.

When I was little, I thought my life would look quite different when I was 28. There would be a white picket fence, a labrador, and a successful career in the mix. Given that the fruitful career I had in mind involved being a ballerina and a part-time vet (obviously), I think we can safely say that my predictions were a bit off. What I definitely didn’t foresee (even a few months back), was that I would be leaving the safe haven of employment and entering the unchartered territory of self-employment.

The nice thing about starting from scratch is that you can decide exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it. The terrifying thing about starting from scratch… is that you are starting from scratch. It’s all up to you to make something out of nothing. And no one is there to say (in a voice I imagine to be Morgan Freeman’s, for some reason): “This is how it works, young person.”

 

 

So, on Monday, when I joined Liz at Pomegranite, it was with a mixture of excitement and some trepidation. It’s somewhat daunting not having a guaranteed salary each month – but on the flipside, the freedom to create a role you want to fill and work you want to do, is a thrill I am still getting used to. A freedom that I wouldn’t exchange for anything, now that it’s mine.

Taking a moment to contemplate exactly what you want to do and what you want your professional life to look like is, in many ways, similar to looking at your online presence and deciding what – and how – you want to communicate about your brand to the online world. You ask yourself a lot of the same questions.

Who are you, really? (Not a ballerina and a part-time vet, perhaps). What is it that you do? What do you want to do? How does that make you different from others? How can you stand out from the crowd? What story do you want to tell the world?

Creating an online presence may seem like a daunting task – as does starting a new business – but the hard part is getting to the bottom of these questions. Once you have these answers, you have a roadmap for yourself.

The fun part is making it a reality.