What does it mean to truly listen? As a PR Professional, listening is essential, but not many of us actually listen to a conversation. Most times, many who claim they listen are just waiting to speak again. They are essentially looking for aural and visual cues in order to jump in with their thoughts, insights and opinions. They may spew a few of the facts that were said before, but the idea is to be a part of the conversation—not analyze it.
Others don’t wait but give a time limit for conversations to transpire and jump in if they don’t. For these types of people, conversation ideas and insights will be screaming in their heads during a conversation. In this case, they want to BE the conversation. They could care less of being rude and more about being seen as witty or intelligent.
True PR professionals listen with both eyes and ears. It is essential because it’s only when the situation is truly understood that effective advice can be given. When you truly listen, it’s very apparent by the way you respond and converse. [bctt tweet=”True #PR professionals listen with both eyes and ears”]
True listening does not happen naturally. Often, people need to discipline themselves to be active listeners and follow this up with a lot of practice. Employing this tactic regularly will have obvious benefits and positive results. For example, the PR pro who really listens can sense the underlying mood or subliminal cues in a conversation that would have otherwise been hidden. These cues are key to understanding whether the conversationalist has a hidden agenda or other masked motives.
This is especially important when conversing with customers from East Asia or the Middle East. Many from these areas of the world grow up in an environment that frowns upon showing honest emotions and saying aloud what they may have in their mind. So, they say a lot more subliminally than with just words. Their conversations may be filled with short one-liners, but what is actually meant can be whole paragraphs.
True listeners can also identify misdirection. Sometimes a conversationalist may be saying one thing, but she may mean something else altogether. This allows those who actively listen to weigh in or even question the conversationalist on what they actually want, giving them the ability to redirect the conversation in the right direction. It’s a tricky art, but it can be very useful.
Lastly, truly great listeners can pick out great ideas. Many entrepreneurs have tasted success by starting ventures based on something that they heard. It’s the same for PR professionals. By not actively listening, you are shutting off a valuable channel for ideas and insights.
So how do you become a good listener? Here are 5 principles to adhere to:
- Don’t parrot. That is so 70’s. Repeating what people said was once thought of as a good listening practice. Now it can be annoying. Instead, clarify. Besides making the conversationalist seem like an expert or thought leader, it can also help to boost his or her ego and they actually end up saying more. Good negotiators love this tactic.
- Silence is better than verbal diarrhea. In today’s world where conversations are hurried and factual, with little room for small talk, journalists especially will love your minimalist yet factual approach.
- Engage, not argue. Nobody is employing a PR professional to argue. That’s what lawyers are for. The role of the PR pro is to influence or steer conversations.
- Read the body language. It can offer a wealth of information that the conversationalist may or may not want to share. Good PR strategists are experts in this, and some can even be as good as FBI profilers.
- Listen online. Twitter is an ideal tool for listening to online conversations. Setting up diverse channels and actively listening to the online conversations will offer good insights. [bctt tweet=”Listening is vital for every #PR professional”]
Whether you follow these principles or have your own, listening is vital for every PR professional. Becoming an expert and active listener will go a long way toward achieving success.