When Communication Adds Up to a Big Fat Zero

Filed in Social Media Marketing 16 comments

All the latest and greatest tools mean nothing  When Communication Adds Up to a Big Fat Zeroif you aren’t listening

I read several great blogs today — and would still be reading — if I didn’t want to share my own understanding of one important topic:

Effective social media marketing —  aka REAL CONVERSATION — cannot happen without someone to LISTEN.

Let’s get personal for a moment.

Stop and think about the last time you thought you were having a conversation with a friend or significant other . . . and words later, the other person said something that clearly showed you she wasn’t really listening – no how, no way.

Frustrating, maddening, really.

Want to listen?

Stop Talking . . . both aloud

. . . and in your head

So now step ahead to someone in a business setting who says he or she wants to be of service, and you say, “Great, here’s what I want” and then that person just keeps on talking — and keeps on ignoring you.

Frustrating, maddening, really.

Businesses today want employees with Great Communication Skills. But many times they don’t even consider Listening to be one of the most important communication skills. Too bad. Without these critical skills, “the best laid plans of mice and men . . .” are all for naught.

In my Business Communication class, we actually have a few lessons on Active Listening. In addition to a great videotape where participants engage in activities like (a) continuing dialogues with the last words spoken and (b) carrying on conversations without using the word I, we discuss some important tips for becoming an Active Listener.

Some of these include the following:

1. STOP TALKING: Forget about what you want to get across and focus on the person speaking to you.

2. KEEP AN OPEN MIND: One sign of a critical thinker is being able to remain objective so that you neither hear what you want to hear nor dismiss the remarks of someone because you don’t like him.

3. LISTEN BETWEEN THE LINES: I love this one. As a former reporter, I got used to hearing propaganda; you really need to dig deep sometimes. Additionally, in our global society, the words of one culture may have different meanings than we are used to.

4. HOLD YOUR FIRE: This is a particular problem in a classroom where some people are always feeling the need to take the stage. You can’t listen to someone else when you are preparing your next lines.

5. PROVIDE FEEDBACK: This is KEY in business communication. It shows your degree of understanding of a problem or situation. This is the stimulus for the back-and-forth conversations that build relationships and communities.

So your job now is to Provide Some Feedback.

I know I’ve left out dozens of other Good Listening Tips. Have at me. I’m listening.

Next post: Robert Scoble discusses social media tools with SFSU students

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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   27 April 2009
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Comments
Apr 27, 2009
8:32 pm
#1 randall :

this whole idea implies that people actually care about something. I have had a number of experiences lately where the very concept of customer service was clearly a non issue

Apr 27, 2009
11:08 pm
#2 Anh Dao :

After reading this post, I have come away with a few points of interest.

One, listening is an active part of a conversation. It seems that most people think listening involves sitting still, eyes open, nodding occasionally and agreeing with hmmms and yeahs. This is such a common occurrence that everyone can visualize what I am describing.

And for me, being having spent a large part of my childhood in Vietnam, taught me a few things about listening. In Vietnam, listening is a part of every child’s life. You were taught to listen to your elders, parents, neighbors, older siblings, and teachers. Most of the time, you are taught that people who are older (in age) are likely to be more wise and to heed their words/advice. This is a typical experience among the friends and people I had known. It is so prevalent, it often became the detriment to a child’s development of his/her opinions at an extremely early age. In the United States, I remember my teachers telling us that everyone is special; everyone have the right to their opinions; everyone should respect others’ opinions.

While there is nothing considerably bad about the Vietnam or American way, it shows a remarkable contrast between the two cultures. The former, imposes a strong emphasis on listening that, I believe, creates great listeners. The latter imposes a strong emphasis on self importance and opinions, which in turn creates a pool of opinionated individuals. This is a long overview but I feel it is important to explain before making my point. Perhaps, this is the cultural reason it is hard for Americans, including myself at times, to listen consciously and attentively. Thanks for the helpful reminder to be a better listener Shari.

Apr 27, 2009
11:14 pm
#3 sharisax :

care to elaborate, i.e., for example . . . ?

Apr 27, 2009
11:19 pm
#4 sharisax :

One of the great features of a blog is when the reader gets a chance to share his or her story. Then, at least two things happen: the reader undoubtedly comes to a deeper understanding of his/her feelings and the original poster knows that his/her words have had an effect. Of course, there are many other things that happen during this “conversation” if any readers out there would like to add to this discussion.

Apr 28, 2009
7:35 pm
#5 Sandy Davis :

Shari, I absolutely agree that listening is crucial…it’s what turns an acquaintance into a friend, an employee into an ally and a customer into a lifelong client. –Sandy

Apr 28, 2009
9:30 pm
#6 Joseph Robello :

I’m an old retired guy who has wasted too many years of his life in meetings. The main thing I learned was that I would rather take a bullet through the head than sit through another one. But, for those of you who have to endure them and also want to avoid becoming a misanthrope such as I, a few suggestions:
Limit both the length of the meeting and the time alloted to each speaker. Planners always overestimate the audience’s ability (or willingness) to stay focused. Workshops involving small focus groups with clearly defined tasks to contribute to the general discussion tend to keep people more focused. The way the meeting is structured is crucial for maintaining attention.
Final tip: no one is allowed to speak until they have summarized what was just said to the satisfaction of the previous speaker. This guarantees attentive listening, and, surprisingly, engenders mutual respect.

Apr 29, 2009
12:23 am
#7 sharisax :

Joe, you and I feel exactly alike when it comes to not wanting to waste our life in meetings listening to a few people pontificate. However, in the past few years I’ve been extremely fortunate to be involved in some successful small group meetings you mention above — where members all come prepared, contribute, listen to one another, and end up with an action plan. That’s the plan for extremely valuable meetings. All that being said, in this era of social media, more and more and more of our business meetings will be on the phone with video and/or computer screen link-ups. And I think your suggestion that speakers sum up the previous speaker is a great one.

Apr 29, 2009
12:26 am
#8 sharisax :

Here. Here. A few words, but powerful advice.

Apr 29, 2009
10:10 am

Hi Shari, we met years ago through a mutual friend, Penny at PennWell. I’m just about 6 hours north of you in Southern Oregon now and found your blog and web site through LinkedIn. Your post about active listening is always something people need to hear, because so few do it well, myself included. But I’m trying to get better.

Since my Nth layoff in November, I’ve been listening and looking for new directions my varied communications career might take, casting a wide net, being alert to the possibilities (like your blog), learning new skills, and reconnecting with and helping others along the way. It’s a good time to practice active listening.

I appreciated your refresher tips, Joe’s suggestion about summing up or at least validating the previous person’s main points, and Anh’s observations about cultural differences. It reminded me of my own childhood, not in Vietnam, but in the 9th Ward of New Orleans in a working class neighborhood. We were taught to listen to our elders, too. I recall being a very introverted child who decided in high school that I wanted to change. Now I see the value in balance in so many aspects of life, I’m feeling drawn back to that more introspective side.

Thanks for being “out there”, Shari Sax.

Apr 29, 2009
10:40 am
#10 sharisax :

Hey. Lynne, this is one of the really AWESOME opportunities of being Out There. :-)
One is to Hook Up [in the “old” sense of that word] with friends from the past who find you online and . . .

Two is to share discoveries that could possibly enhance lives and the world.

On that note, I’ve learned how the whole Social Media Revolution/Evolution has leveled the playing field in a way that each and every one of us has an opportunity to find a niche, make a name for ourselves, and help others benefit from the wonderful, productive conversations available to all who join us “out there”: talking and listening.

Jul 27, 2009
8:40 am
#11 Yoshiko :

Wow this post is right on point. I see this everyday at work. The company I work for tells us that they want to know what customers are saying about our products, selection, and what products they would like us to carry. For months we have been tabulating request, but when we email this truly invaluable information HQ either does not reply or they say “This will not make or break us.”

WHAT????

Especially in today’s economy any little bit helps and you never really know what is going to make or break you. The company has started to use social media as well, but they have no idea what they are doing. Our company blog right now reads like a personal journal that has nothing to do with our company.

Content, content, content… a company blog should engage the consumer in a meaningful conversation with the company. It is just so frustrating. Everyday I learn something new about effective business strategies, but they just brush me off. They are way too attached to the old rules of marketing/PR. They even have us calling and sending out letters to our customers. This is the Twenty-First Century. Its time to “actively listen” and forget the interruption tactics. I am starting to think that they are just hopeless. I mean really.. phone calls.

Jul 27, 2009
8:55 am
#12 sharisax :

And,. thank you, Anh, for checking in again. Lots and lots new on the PR horizon since your class . . . just last semester!

Jul 27, 2009
9:00 am
#13 sharisax :

Yoshiko, I’m really proud of you. YOU GET IT! Spread the word. The world is waiting to hear it . . . even if many don’t know it yet.

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