- Thu, July 07 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
The most underrated skill in the world is listening. So few people actually listen to each other deeply. They’re too busy thinking about what they’re going to say next or how to get other people to listen to them. They are self-centered when they should be people-centered.
What a loss. Because there is so much to gain from using your ears for their intended purpose: listening - not waiting for a pause to talk. When you develop a listening ear, you gain insights into what makes people tick, what they need, and how to compel them to action. You develop profound connections. The most successful people in the world are all great listeners. Their own voice is not their focus. They’re so good at hearing, they don’t just listen to the words being said by others, they also grasp the meaning beneath those utterances. They therefore understand what people want, and they build great companies, amazing nonprofits and terrific agencies based on that knowledge.
Some people listen at first, but then stop. That’s not good either. People cease listening when they think they know the answers they’re going to get—or when they think they have better answers. This is dangerous. We have to keep listening, because few people stay the same or lock into one thought forever.
I was reminded of these points when I read about a new study featured in Inside Influence this week. It had a stunning conclusion: the longer people knew each other, the WORSE they were at predicting their attitudes and interests. I think the problem was simple: listening had stopped.
Those subjects who were asked to predict the preferences of people they had known for a relatively short time were accurate 42% of the time. Surprisingly those who predicted the preferences of someone that they had known for a much longer time were accurate just 36% of the time.
Perhaps the most telling result of all was how little awareness people had over how well they actually knew people. In pre-study tests, both groups estimated that their prediction accuracy would be at least 60%.
The study authors suggest that there are several potential reasons why having a longer standing relationship with others could lead to reduced levels of understanding of those other’s likes, dislikes and preferences. One reason is the simple fact that a significant proportion of our understanding and learning of another occurs in the early stages of relationships, when motivation levels to get to know each other are arguably higher. As time goes by, that motivation can decline and as a result important information or changes that occur could go unnoticed or not be attended to as much.
Have you “known” your donors, beneficiaries and co-workers so long that you’ve stopped listening to them? Don’t stop getting to know them. It’s a never-ending process, and it’s an always-evolving relationship. When you listen, you’ll learn new things all the time. You’ll be smarter, more effective and very popular. Because everyone appreciates a good listener. One more reason to open your ears.