Have you ever had the distinct feeling that the person you
were speaking to wasnít really listening? Were you convinced the
person was a million miles away, give or take a hundred thousand?
Has it ever gotten so bad that if your words went in one ear and
out the other, it would be a step in the right direction?
Do you suppose other people have ever had that reaction when
speaking to you?
For some reason, most of us are good at hearing, but really
listening ó thatís another thing altogether. Yet in working with
customers, listening, not just going through the motions, is
critical to success. Here are some reminders:
Donít jump to conclusions.
Jumping is so easy, especially if youíre inclined to think, What
does this dingbat want this time? Resist the urge to turn off
your mental hearing aid. A key part of caring listening is not to
draw premature conclusions about either the person or what the
person is saying. Some people never let facts stand in the way of
a hasty conclusion. Are you one of them?
Donít interrupt. Make a commitment to keep the old trap
shut and to listen as hard as you can. Test yourself by seeing
how long you can do it. At first, 15 seconds will seem like an
eternity. Then go for 30. Then an entire endless minute. You
already know what you think; spouting off wonít help you
understand the other personís perspective. Although remaining
silent is chomping-at-the-bit difficult, you will learn much more
by listening than if you constantly interject your own views.
Seek to know more. If you ask questions about what you heard, youíll end up with more complete information. If you donít have any questions, you can still draw the person out by asking, "What else can you tell me about that?" or "Is there anything else you think I should know?" Asking questions has an added benefit: It demonstrates to your listeners that you really were listening. Not that they had any reason to suspect otherwise, of course.
Make listening a conscious activity. Itís natural for your mind to wander, and even more natural to let it. You can reduce mental meandering, however, by cutting it short when you become aware of it. Every time you notice that your mind has wandered, respond immediately with a silent Oops, and resume listening. With practice, you can even train a little voice in your head to interrupt your wanderings and bring you back to the present. Do not engage in a conversation with this voice while others are around.
Pretend youíre a famous anthropologist.
If worse comes to worse, and youíd rather have a root canal than
listen for one more second, use this proven technique. Imagine
youíve just arrived in a remote village as different as can be
from where you live. Your mission is to make sense of the
natives. Theyíre not like anyone youíve ever encountered before
so you have to listen carefully. Try it. It works! (But do your
best to keep a straight face, OK?)
Copyright © 2006 Karten Associates, www.nkarten.com.
All rights reserved.
What's In a Name?
Iíve learned to live with it. Being misspelled, that is. When
I called my doctorís office to schedule an appointment, the
secretary asked for my last name. Karten, I said, and spelled it.
Long pause while I was put on hold.
"Have you seen the doctor before?" she asked. Yes, I
told her, heís been my doctor for 12 years. On hold again.
At length, she returned and asked for my last name again. K-a-
r-t-e-n, I said. First initial? N, I said, as in Nancy. (I
learned long ago that if I said "N as in Naomi," it
only confused the already befuddled.) It was obvious she was striving
mightily to coax the computer into submission.
"OK," she said at last, "here it is. I thought
you said it was spelled with a C."
No, I told her, Iím quite certain I spelled my name correctly.
Even my spell checker agreed.
Do you ever face spelling snafus? If so, maybe you find, as I
do, that it never gets any less frustrating. I had a similar
experience when I arrived at a hotel and the front desk chap told
me I didnít have a reservation. I guided him to my reservation
under the incorrect spelling (or maybe I should call it the
I assumed heíd immediately correct it. Wrong. When my husband
called, he was told there was no one there by that name.
Fortunately, he knew the drill, but what if it had been my client
calling to reschedule our meeting?
Once, when my husband and I were on vacation, we decided to
stay a few days longer. He called the front desk to ask if we
could keep the room. "Your name?" he was asked. He went
through the with-a-K routine. "Nope," he was told,
"Couldnít be. The computer has no record of it." My
husband explained that he was calling from room 206 and weíd been
there a week already. After a few more tries, the computer
coughed up our records. It seems the front desk fellow had
entered the K correctly, but got the rest wrong.
Once your name gets into the computer wrong, itís almost
easier to change it to the wrong version than get it fixed.
Clearly, though, the real culprit isnít the computer but the
people using the computer. Itís people who donít listen. People
who are too distracted to pay attention. People who already know
the "right" answer, so they ignore what their customers
But after grousing about it for years, Iíve concluded that the
only thing to do is to take more responsibility for the
situation. So, now, when giving my name to Those Who Handle
Records, I preface the spelling by emphasizing that my name is
frequently misspelled and Iíd so appreciate it if theyíd record
it correctly. This approach seems to help.
What about you? Do you ever spell names wrong because you
didnít pay attention? As a member of the Frequently Misspelled, I
feel a special obligation not to do to others what is so often
done to me. And I confess, I still miss every now and then. But
(Signed) Your friend, Naomi Karten-with-a-K
Copyright © 2006 Karten Associates, www.nkarten.com. All