Listening is something that we take pretty much for granted and therefore put way too little effort into doing it well. It is one of the keys to effective communication – hearing and understanding the other person’s message or viewpoint – yet we often are more concerned with making our own points or moving on to something we find more interesting than that conversation.
For instance, we daydream, think about all of the things we have yet to accomplish that day, think about the kids’ activities, think about matters at home, replay mentally the recent argument we had with someone in customer service about a purchase or billing concern, or concentrate more on our next question or comeback than we do in actually engaging the person talking directly to us.
Facing the people we are talking with – clients, colleagues, family, or anyone else – maintaining eye contact, and giving them some assurance that we are listening and paying attention are ways that we can actively participate in listening.
However, it needs to go way beyond just the obvious signs of looking like we are paying attention to that of actually making a real connection with our customers and clients. When we are dealing with aging in place clients, we have people whom we know need services and home improvements who are in denial or just not ready to commit to any type of a project (it could be financial or just the idea of having the work done in their home).
We also have people who feel overwhelmed by the type of work they need to have done and what it will take in terms of time and money to get it done. There are clients who want the world and have trouble bringing things into focus with us for a realistic approach to their issues. There also are people who would just like to kick the can down the road and avoid any discussion of getting older or needing any type of special modifications to help them cope with and adjust to aging issues.
So, communicating with them and gaining a total understanding of their fears, concerns, and interest level is quite valuable and important for making viable suggestions and creating solutions that serve their needs. We must maintain focus, keep them engaged, eliminate as many external distractions as possible, and concentrate on determining a proper course of action.
Listening definitely requires effort. Hearing is just a physical sensory response to sound waves cast in our direction. Listening, on the other hand, is intentional. It requires our involvement in the process. It cannot be taken lightly or approached casually.
In order to serve our aging-in-place clientele, as well as make the strategic connections necessary to be effective providers, we have to be excellent communications. That starts and ends with listening. Talking is important, but it’s what the other person says that matters as to how effective we are and if our message – as well as what they are conveying – is understood.