Effective communication is key to understanding our customers and hearing their problems. Finding a creative solution necessitates communicating. Stopping, listening, seeing, understanding what customers are saying. Yet noise constantly interferes with our ability to truly hear what’s on someone’s mind. I used to live by a train station, where trains would come and go all day long. After living there for some time, I could no longer hear the train when it came. I would long forget the pattern of the dinging crossing arms and train horn. It wouldn’t be until guests were visiting when that train sound became amplified. Noise I became used to and comfortable with halted conversation it its tracks. The train outside now affected my listening and that of the new visitors, without me even realizing a problem existed. The noise within our lives may not always be noticeable, just like in the example of the train. We’re constantly in need of finding a new way to prepare our minds to fully listen to the problem.
Noise comes in many forms, stretching further than the physical noise of the train yard. Noise is also in seeing only our perceptions of situations, hearing our personal thoughts, and misunderstanding the perspective of the person we are attempting to hear. With noise surrounding us, how do we hear the true problems? How do we find creative solutions that change lives? Where should we focus? Are the needs of our customers being met?
Effective listening is a skill that requires thought, care, and determination. With training and practice you’re able to set aside your frame of reference and step inside the lenses of another person. Here are some listening tips (compiled from the blog posts linked below): look – pick up on nonverbal cues and help your ears out by facing the person talking, hear – understand the person talking, create a picture of what they’re saying, react – ask a question, take notes, acknowledge what was said.
While listening is difficult, and there are many practices to improve your listening, it most importantly requires empathy. Empathy with the customer, empathy in the problem, empathy in finding a creative solution. As Raghu Mani discussed in his blog post earlier this week, Realizing Empathy– A tryst with emotion, “all it takes is to EMPATHISE”. This is at the heart of listening, and the core of design thinking. In order to innovate, we must first see, feel, hear, and most importantly understand the needs of our customers. When you truly understand the customer, you are equipped to find a solution that fits those needs. You can focus on creating solutions your customers can use to simplify their life instead of adding to the chaos.
What ways do you find keeps you listening the best? How do you empathize while listening?
These blogs have more insight and tips on the benefits of effective listening: