Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Becoming a Better Listener - Hearing, Not Just Listening.

Becoming a Better Listener

So I saw this title (article here by Suzie McCarthy) and got very excited. Not because of it's social listening bend, no, it's because it ties back to a very basic, yet critical lesson one of my ADHD friends (eventually to be a business partner) was given somewhere between high school and our professional lives.  This friend had quite a bit of trouble paying attention for very long, quite honestly because his mind was running at 5 times the speed of everyone elses and god only knows what he was thinking while 'listening'. 

But the truth is that everything in business (and quite a bit personally) requires not just listening, but actively listening. 
Human ear icon

To Suzie's point "I’m a problem-solver. That’s one of the reasons I became a social strategist. I’m always on the look out for better solutions and ways to transform theory into practice. The downside to this is that I tend to not be the best listener. If you’re telling me anything that involves a problem, my mind immediately focuses on that and begins to work on pulling together a variety of potential solutions."

This is more reactive listening than listening. Suddenly you are no longer processing what is being said (ie: hearing it) and your mind is someplace else. It's very hard to multitask when trying to actually listen. In fact studies are showing more and more that we just aren't very good at multitasking anyway.

Many listen, fewer actually hear, and therein lies the key at a level below what Suzie is even talking about in this great piece she wrote. Don't be the one that has to be scolded because "you listen, but you do not hear"; if you jump off and try to figure it out or solve the permutations of the problem without really listening to what's being said - you are at a disadvantage from the start, trying to craft any strategy for a solution with incomplete data, perhaps not even solving the wrong problem.

she continues "Social strategists must be strategic listeners as well as effective problem solvers. This can be difficult in our fast-paced world. The pressure comes externally as well as internally to make snap strategic decisions based on already known facts."

Expected or not, our best work does not come via decisions based only on already known facts, you also need those facts specific to the problem at hand, blending existing knowledge and understanding with current data to craft a decision, solution, etc.  So the truth is that even without social media listening considerations, we are dealing with an ever-changing landscape made up of layers upon layers of human behavior. The speed at which social information flies only complicates matters further because as Suzie noted, "A successful social strategy must take into account the needs and wants of the target audience and to know that requires time to listen {and hear what is being said}"

Thanks Suzie, for once again reminding me that this fundamental lesson of so long ago is more relevant than ever.

By the way, check out a few of my portfolio companies in social:


some images, chart references - Wikipedia // @suzimcc

Related articles:

  Passive vs. Active Social Media “listening”

  Once more, with feelings: Multi-tasking will make you dumb

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