Listen Up! Five Steps to Radical Listening

June 20, 2013

jeff lionI think way too much while I’m listening. That apparently is one of many things that separates me and most of us from Bill Clinton, the master of giving people his undivided attention. The good news? Clinton taught himself to connect-by-listening when he realized it increased his power in conversations and helped him become more persuasive.

So how does talking and thinking less help you sell your ideas better? The two former creative directors who have created SWIM led a Radical Listening workshop at the Cannes Lions Festival “marathon of listening” to help us avoid the train wrecks that occur when we only half-listen. They vow we’ll be more successful in no time.

Here’s how to be a radical listener:

  • Actively Focus: Practice making silent eye contact with someone for a full minute. You will realize how much body language plays into good listening.
  • Watch Your Signals: Appearing open, patient and interested will actually enable the speaker to be clearer. Being a good audience actually helps the speaker articulate thoughts more effectively.
  • Practice Pausing: Avoid the trap of your mind wandering or passing judgment (“I know what’s coming next”) or hearing what you want to hear by creating thoughtful pauses. Never jump on people’s words.
  • Stop Selling: After sharing ideas, just listen to the response and avoid the instinct to verbally arm wrestle. Suggest sleeping on ideas and convening the next day.
  • Confirm You Heard Correctly: Always summarize what you heard. By playing back information, you ensure you did not misunderstand or miss anything.

Going from poor listening to good listening will help us do better work and have better relationships. Pretty radical.

Karen loves winning trophies for clients, believing awards affirm how much strategy and creativity matter. As Ketchum’s chief strategy and creativity officer, as well as co-lead of Ketchum’s 50+ specialty, she is an evangelist for courage and creativity in communication, and she ensures strategic discipline and creative liberation for the firm’s global network of planners. Her devotion to studying human behavior, crowdsourcing creative ideas and working across silos have contributed to Ketchum winning more awards for clients than any other PR firm. Some of her initiatives include the creation of Mindfire, Ketchum’s crowdsourcing site for fueling creative ideas; the Ketchum Creative Community and related Passion Panels to solve client challenges; and the Ketchum Media Optimizer, the first media planning discipline in the public relations business. As a member of the small minority of female agency creative chiefs, Karen is on a mission to inspire and empower more women to take on lead creative roles.