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Sure You’re Talking…But Are You Really Listening?

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blog 10.23

Building a personal brand or business requires a certain level of commitment when it comes to “putting yourself out there”, which means we are spending a lot of time “talking”. Whether we’re blogging, podcasting, emailing, hanging out in a community or working with our clients we’re always talking.

We talk so much that it’s easy to get stuck in our own script. You know, where you decide what people want from you, where people need to agree with you and where most of all, we aren’t really listening.

The problem being that our own script is only part of the story. To succeed, we need to stop and listen to our customers, our peers and our market to get the full picture.

As I’ve been working on my own story and creating The Story Distillery, I’ve started to become hyper aware of how listening is dying a painful death right before our eyes. Sure, we create ideal customers and maybe do some market research, but after that, we fall into a hype cycle where it’s all about the talk.

If we’re really only listening 20% of the time and spending the rest of the time deciding what we’re going to say and saying it – our script, our bias, our opinions are given far too much weight.

Less talk, more listening is what will give us the clues on how to build a stronger business, not just writing another blog post or trying to take down someone whose opinion we don’t agree with.  Ask yourself this – Are you really listening?

Pick Your Moments

Us entrepreneurial types tend to have strong personalities and be stubborn and willful. Which when it comes to listening can be a huge challenge as we’re hell-bent on getting our point of view across. Which is why you want to pick your moments. Not everything is for you to own, and sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying “not my circus, not my monkeys” which is a great way to filter what you need to talk about. By not talking about every single thing, you can get focused and be a much better listener. Taking a step back whether you’re working one-on-one with a client who has problems which are out of your scope or reading a thread in a group that you’re tempted in chime in on, holding back your opinion can be the most effective course of action. It’s okay to just listen and take it in as information or data that you may never act on.

Drop the With Me or Against Me Mentality

We’ve all been there. The moment where you have a really strong reaction to someone’s opinion because you think they are dead wrong. Or ridiculous. Or full of shit. You start to stew and you have about a million things to say to that person.

Now, if you were in person, you may stand down, but online, it’s way too easy to let it rip. But opinions are just that: opinions and the sooner you can accept that people don’t all see things the same way as you, the easier your life will be.

On the flip side, if someone has a divergent point of view, you need to be willing to hear them out. To listen. Unless it’s hate speech or discriminatory, they are entitled to their opinion, and you should have the balls to hear them out.

[Tweet “Have the balls to hear opinions you disagree with. New blog post from @magspatterson”]

Your willingness to listen and accept other’s opinions is a strong reflection of your character. There’s a quote from Robert Schuller “Big egos have little ears” that sums this up beautifully.

Don’t get caught up in ego and automatically default to the “if they aren’t with us, they are against us” mentality. You don’t have to like what someone says, or even agree with them, but don’t dismiss it out of turn and go on the defensive. I’ve witnessed this mentality one too many times online, and have wondered why the automatic reaction is to be dismissive or belittle that persons opinion.

Opinions are valuable, they make family dinners way more interesting and saves us all from being cookie cutter marketing minions. Chill out – choose to be happy instead of being right, while hearing other people out.

Open Up Your Ears (And Your Heart)

The more we listen, the more we’ll learn. If we spent even 10% more of our time listening versus talking, we’d quickly be better business owners. Listening is not just a sometimes thing – it should be an all the time thing – just like you write a blog post or work with clients, listening should be a day-to-day activity.

If you work with clients, start by asking them questions and opening up your ears, head and heart to what they are saying. Throw in a feedback-driven question when you are on a Skype with them or in an email. You may be surprised at what you find out and how that can shape your work or even your worldview.

When you’re out there in the “real world” beyond your own bubble, look at how you can listen more. Set time aside to just read what’s being posted in groups instead of posting yourself, or see what’s trending on Twitter. Social media and community-based listening offers you bread crumbs that can start to shape messaging, your story and so much more.

Before you create a damn thing – a service, a program, an ebook – listen to what the market wants. To what your customers want. Do listening-based research via surveys and more to understand their pains, motivations and what makes them tick. The world does not need another vanilla offer that doesn’t really fill a real need.

Listening more, talking less can make all the difference to your business, so stop creating more and speaking more and see where you can truly hear from others. That time and space of listening is where the magic happens.

[Tweet “Our script is only part of the story. New post from @magspatterson”]

What’s one thing you can do to talk less, and listen more? Comment below.

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