A workplace acquaintance once told me she was pregnant. The pregnancy was unexpected. “I just need to talk. I don’t know what to do,” she said. I listened to her concerns about making ends meet and praised her for anticipating for the future. I listened to her talk about her recent promotion, and praised her for taking the initiative and securing it. At the end of a long conversation, she said, “The baby was conceived in love. It will be raised in love.”
I was once put in charge of a complex project at the last minute. I quickly requested a meeting with my manager. I told him I was going to work on the main part first. I explained what I was going to work on next because it was what the client requested. Afterwards I was going to work on the remaining components. Then I discussed the various metrics I was going to collect to make sure everything was fine. He patiently listened throughout, and we both felt more confident afterwards.
I have a friend whose mother passed away suddenly from heart failure. He was devastated. I encouraged him to talk about his mother. In particular, I asked him what he would say to her if he had more time with her. He said, “I would say to her, ‘I love you! I miss you so much!’ Then I would hold her tightly in my arms.” Then I asked him what his mother would tell him if she had more time with him. He teared up and said softly, “She would have said, ‘I love you. Don’t be sad.’”
A boutique owner once told me she had a customer that couldn’t decide between two dresses. “Which dress should I get?” the customer asked. The owner described the two dresses to the customer. Not satisfied with the answer, the customer put the dresses down and went around the store looking for an easier buy. Worried that she was going to lose the sale, the boutique owner tried some different. “Why don’t you tell me what you like about each dress?” she asked the customer. “I really like the look of the first one. I work in a creative field and it’s important that I show my style. And the second one is practical. I’m a busy person and I can’t spend all my time picking out clothes and accessories. I can wear this every day.” After a little more chatting, the customer bought both dresses.
These are just some of the ways listening makes a difference. It’s such an amazing thing to be able to think and feel out loud. When we listen to people, they’re able to discover strengths, validate plans, find closure, or change their minds. When we listen, we’re letting others share and be changed by their stories.
Now, will you join me in learning more about listening?
I’m Marc Wong, and you can find my work here: