Better speaking through listening

Today’s post introduces you to Joan Gladstone, CEO of Gladstone International, and an expert with a wealth of experience in public relations and handling communications crises. Of course, one of the best ways to avoid a crisis is to nip it in the bud, and here, Joan shares a really simple way of doing just that.

The day I graduated from college, my entrepreneurial dad asked, “So, are you going to start your own business now?” It took 15 years for the seed he planted to take root. I started my public relations firm out of a spare bedroom in 1989. I’ll celebrate my 19th year in business this coming July. 

I have a lucky charm that has seen me through thick and thin. It’s my first client, a homebuilder, who is still a client today despite the current downturn in the real estate market.  Other clients have stuck around for more than 10 years. In August, I’ll share some of my client retention tips at the Creative Freelancer Conference.

One is the gift of listening.

Listening is the most basic element of good communication. It is the way we deepen our understanding of other people and build meaningful rapport and trust. Listening takes effort, yet the rewards of truly connecting with another person can be immensely satisfying – for you as well as for them.

Some of my tips for being a good listener:

  • Focus your attention on the other person. One way to do this is to stop multitasking. If you’re on the phone, most people can instantly tell when you’ve checked out of a conversation to check your email.
  • Try not to interrupt. People often make their most important statements at the end of a series of thoughts, not the beginning. Think of how a baseball pitcher winds up before he throws the ball. If we disrupt the thought process too soon, we’ll miss the real point the person was trying to make.
  • Offer encouragement. The most difficult person to talk to is someone who never changes expression. While you are listening, look into the person’s eyes (without staring), nod to show agreement, smile, lean towards the person and use affirmative verbal cues such as “What happened next?” “Tell me more,” or “That’s really interesting.”
  • Resist the tendency to top their stories. For instance, say someone has just gotten back from vacation in Hawaii. They’re eager to tell you all about their wonderful trip. Don’t take the wind out of their sails by listening for a moment and then launching into a description of where you stayed, which beaches you visited, where you had dinner, etc. Ask questions to encourage the person to share their experience. You’ll find most people will return the favor by asking you about your trip, and really listen when it’s your turn to talk.

2 thoughts on “Better speaking through listening

  1. NDRichardson

    Great points. I also like to repeat back to the clients what I heard them say they wanted. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from going down the wrong creative road. I find that sometimes clients say one thing, but have used the wrong terminology that basically changed the whole concept. It also is nice for a client to hear what they are asking you to do in one fluid thought. Most clients really have dissected the sections they are interested in or most important to them, but cannot see the full picture. Recapping what you have discussed together really can have an impact…good or bad…either way it saves you time and your client unnecessary charges.

  2. Natalia

    Not sure this is the right section for this question, but I am in a bit of a “jam” (to put it someway).
    I have a client who I think might be considering hiring another freelance graphic designer for whatever reasons.
    The thing is, I did some work for them in May, and sent the invoice, but haven’t been able to get in touch with them about it (they just don’t reply to the emails or calls).
    I basically just want to know when they think they can process the check for me to pick it up.
    I also did some work and haven’t heard back for any feedback. It’s almost been 2 weeks since that.
    So yesterday I decided to call and find out about the designs I sent, and I was told to call him back in 2 hours. So I did, and he told me he was in a meeting, that he’d call me back later or for me to call him today in the morning. Since I didn’t hear back from him yesterday, I did call him in the morning, as he advised, without being able to get in touch with him. Left a message saying I’d try him in the afternoon, and still didn’t get a hold of him.
    So, where do I go from here? I am just hoping they will pay for my services last month and I would like to know if they will continue needing my services without seeming pushy or needy.
    How can I go about doing this?
    I have just started freelancing and I am not sure how I can get in touch without seeming a little “psycho”.
    This is also the only client I have at the moment, as I am finishing a masters and need to concentrate a lot on that.
    Is this client worth my time?
    Any ideas?
    Thanks in advance,