Did you say something?
We’ve been talking for an hour now, and I don’t remember a single word you said. Either you never said a single word, or I didn’t listen to the multiplicity of words that you did say. I recall that your mouth was moving the entire time, so I guess it was me who wasn’t listening.
Oh well. Maybe you could send me an email covering your key points. I won’t read it, but, at least, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something.
If this monologue sounds familiar, it could be that you are one of those people who just doesn’t listen. This might have been OK when you were six, and your mother called you out on it, but as an adult, not listening can have negative consequences, especially when the person you are not listening to is your manager, significant other, or Ogg, the Tiki God who hangs from your rearview mirror.
Nicole Coulter knows the value of listening; that’s why she wrote “6 Memory Boosters for Better Client Service and Prospecting.” According to Coulter, “whenever we encounter someone who truly listens to us, we’re impressed. It makes us feel someone truly cares.”
Now, we both know there is no way that you are actually going to start listening – or truly caring, for that matter. Considering your tiny brain capacity, it’s a scientific miracle that you are able to remember your own name. No way there’s any room for even a nibble more information. Fortunately, with Coulter’s six memory boosters, you can do a darn good job of faking it.
For example, consider Booster No. 1: “People frequently relay important details about their health, such as doctor visits, illnesses or surgeries,” Coulter writes. “If someone mentions a health problem, at the very least, wish them well at the end of your meeting: ‘I hope your shoulder gets better.'”
This is an excellent idea. Of course, the power of this heartwarming expression of true caring may be vitiated if that someone is about to undergo surgery for double knee replacements, but I wouldn’t worry about it. Whatever is actually wrong with the person you were supposed to be listening to, you can always explain that “I hope your shoulder gets better” is a common expression in your native Freedonia, reflecting the plight of farm women who carry large milk pails on their shoulders. “Interestingly,” you might add, “it’s the pail with the non-fat milk that’s heavier!”
Family relationships form the basis for Memory Booster No. 2. “Make notes about their children, parents, siblings,” Coulter says, referencing the good impression you make when you casually say, “How’s Susie doing at USC?” I say, to make an even bigger impression add, “I followed her around campus for a few days. She never saw me, though she did call the campus police. Fortunately, I was able to hide in the bushes, so it really wasn’t a problem.”
“People love it when you remember their vacations,” is Booster No. 3, and it’s so true. Coulter suggests you prove you listen by providing a guidebook to their destination with “detailed maps, language guidance and hotel ratings.” That’s OK, but if you really want to show you were listening, why not simply show up at their hotel? Book an adjoining suite! They’ll be so glad to see you, they won’t even complain when they learn you’ve charged everything to their room.
Boosters No. 4 and 5 are hobbies and affiliations. Coulter calls them “relationship gold,” and I totally agree when she adds, “It’s always fun when someone asks us about our activities.” Not everyone is a member of Rotary or collects stamps, but asking a married person how surprised you were to see their profile on Tinder, or Ashley Madison, or Zoroastrian Mingle is sure to make an impression, especially if their spouse is with them.
The final Booster is to “remember what people do at their jobs, and ask them the occasional probing question, like, “What’s challenging you the most right now in your job?” If they seem reluctant to share their business failures with you, show that you’re not afraid to answer the question yourself.
“I’ll tell you what’s challenging right now in my job,” you could say. “It’s dealing with idiots like you!”
Say that to some people and they could get angry, but it shouldn’t be a problem with your managers, your significant other or your Tiki god, Ogg.
You know it as well as I do; they just never listen.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.