Can You Hear Me Now?

Atlanta Latte
Atlanta Latte

So, I’m at Starbucks this morning and, though I’m really not a coffee drinker, an iced decaf Americano with a splash of vanilla sweet cream sounded so good given the warm weather.  I marched up to the counter ready the place my order and the clerk walked away without saying a word when it was my turn.  I waited… mouth watering… eager to request my treat.  Within a few minutes, she returned and asked, “What can I get started for you?”  Slowly, I said, “Iced.  Decaf.  Americano. Splash of vanilla sweet cream.”  While I was talking, she grabbed a Sharpie and a cold drink cup and checked the appropriate boxes.  When she was finished she looked up and asked, “You did say ‘iced,’ right?”  Right.  Good thing, too, since she had just marked up the cup!

When she was done with that, she asked, “Name?”  I said, “Alana, spelled A-L-A-N-A.”  She then wrote, “Atlanta.”  While I’m sure she is good at many things, I’m guessing listening skills are not at the top of this individual’s list of most impressive attributes.

Hey, whatever, I got my coffee flavored “milkshake,” right?  I’m not so sure.  Truth is, it both irritated and amused me just a little bit.

After my meeting at Starbucks, I headed to the monthly and wonderful Business Book Review hosted by my buddy, Shawn Kinkade.  Today’s book was The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman, PhD, and was focused on improving productivity by improving employee engagement.  Without going into too much detail, one of the author’s principles that Shawn described is all around increasing employee motivation through the simple art of LISTENING.

In the book, the author uses the example of hostage negotiators.  He says that those most successful in this high pressure, high stress business are those negotiators who rely less on their persuasion skills and much more heavily on active listening skills.  Once again, it pays to listen twice as much as we talk!

My friend, Laura Janusik, is a college professor in the Department of Communication whose area of expertise is listening. In a piece she wrote for Coffee Lunch Coffee in anticipation of International I Love to Listen Day, she had this to say:

“I’m fascinated by how the brain makes meaning while we listen. What I recognize about my students is how uncomfortable most of them are in face-to-face communication. Skilled at the impersonal transfer of data in digital communication – testing, posting, and even old-fashioned email, they become lost in face-to-face communication.”

She stresses the importance of learning how to read others… learning how and when to jump into a conversation… learning what not to say to avoid hurting others’ feelings… learning how to say something funny enough to get the whole table to laugh.

So, too, should we all take care to listen.  When we meet someone for the first time and receive the other person’s name… make an effort to really hear and remember it.  When someone shares a challenge or concern… take time to listen carefully and note what it is they may be asking you for whether it is direct assistance or simply that caring ear.  In so doing, I suspect the quality of your relationships will improve and your listening skills will have far-reaching positive implications for yourself and your business.

Have an example of a time listening really paid off?  Or, perhaps a story when things didn’t go so well because you or your contact failed to pay attention and hear what was going on?  Please take time to leave a comment at – we would all LOVE to LISTEN to your story!

7 thoughts to “Can You Hear Me Now?”

  1. Good reminder to listen mores! Always good advice. Can’t wait to see you again and catch up on our stories! #onlyliv1

  2. Alana,
    Your insight is always helpful and thought provoking!!
    For some people it is challenging to listen without responding immediately.
    I appreciate you writing about this today.


  3. Excellent insight, as always. And timely as our firm is focusing on engagement and listening! Thanks.

  4. In teaching active listening my audience is challenged to ask themselves who’s doing the most talking: if it’s you and not your customer then you are talking too much. Without hearing the customer’s story we can’t help them. We are not here to sell but to help them fulfill their wishes, dreams, desires.

  5. I attended a continuing education session attended by 50-60 healthcare executives where the speaker introduced herself to every person who walked in. Then to our amazement, during her introduction, she said she wanted us to know who else was in the room and introduced each one of the attendees by first name! I was floored, and so amazed by her listening and observation skills. She made an impact because we were then inspired to listen closely to her coaching tips! I think of her often when I work a crowd to engage more genuinely with others.

  6. Great reminder on how important it is to listen and “read people’s cues”. It is easy to get caught up in wanting to push our agenda or get our message across. I have found if I actively listen without prepping for how I want to respond the conversations are much more productive.

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