Archives for posts with tag: Listening

I don’t know about you, but as I get older I find it harder to retain information.

I read loads, at work and for leisure. I remember the information for the short term, but it doesn’t stick over time and I have to go back to the information I need again. And again.

When I was younger, at school, I used to have regular tests, like loads of other kids. A lot of the tests were vocabulary tests, for different languages. I would cram, learn the words by rote, regurgitate them in the test, score well, and then forget many of them over time. Later, when I started taking the kind of exams where you couldn’t learn something by rote – you had to learn how to do it, like a solve a maths problem a certain way or learn how to do an income statement – I struggled.

When we need to retain information or knowledge, it has to happen regularly over time, as we absorb the new information or methods and learn the patterns that help us embed them with repetition and practice.

Something else needs to happen, though. We need to listen or read actively. We need to be engaged. It’s like saying hello to someone new for the first time and engaging the brain actively to remember their name. If we don’t pay the right kind of attention, the name is gone in an instant. If we listen actively, it stays for years, decades even.

There are lots of books and courses out there that help you remember names and other more involved concepts by figuring out connections and stories that make them memorable. But to me they’re more developed ways of engaging the brain for retention.

So it’s not really my getting older that’s the problem. It’s more that I live in an era of information overload and I’m scanning everything, rather than reading it properly.

The difference between read and retain is the difference between passive and active.

Do you know what I find slightly off-putting, when I’m having a conversation with someone in person or on the phone?

When you’re talking to that person, and they’re saying ‘uh-huh’, or ‘mm-hmm’, or ‘OK’ while you’re talking, but it’s not at the right time. It’s not at the end of one of your clauses, or when you pause. In fact, it’s at a point where you know they’re either not listening or else they feel they have to participate in the dialogue due to nerves or a need to appear superior.

Some of the rules of dialogue best practice are that you wait your turn, collaborate with your co-speaker, put them at ease, get on with them. Then there are the verbal and non-verbal cues that you have to pick up too.

Jumping in at the wrong time – and this is different from interrupting – breaks all the rules.

Get the timing right. It shows them you’re listening and you understand how to converse. It also gets you what you need.



Short term memory. Lots of people complain that they have short term memory, fear that they’re losing their marbles.

Nothing of the sort. I forget things I heard in the recent past, but it’s not because I have short term memory issues. It’s because I haven’t engaged my brain properly.

There are plenty of self-help books to improve people’s recollection of names, people, events. The key thing to do is to listen – actively. There is of course a difference between hearing someone and listening to them, between seeing someone and looking at them, watching them. When you actively listen, when you put something small on the line that makes you establish a connection and fire a few more synapses than normal, you remember something, for a long time.

I can remember the names of attractive women I might have met only briefly at a party three decades ago. I can do the same with telephone numbers and car registration plates. Why? Because I had an interest in making the connection, so it elevated the information to a different part of my mental filing system.

So, if you want to get better at retaining information, concentrate more. Concentrate on actively listening and watching and making the right connection.

Selling isn’t yelling. Marketing isn’t yelling either.

That’s the wrong direction.

Selling is NOT:

– talking

– telling

– reciting

– shouting

– bullying

– lecturing

– pontificating

Selling IS:

– asking

– listening

– qualifying

– disqualifying

– challenging

– guiding

– advising

That’s the right direction. It comes from the customer to you, not the other way around. Pull versus push.

So how do you initiate the conversation? Tell them something that compels them to engage with you, to put their hand up, to come to you.

We do so much work trying to persuade our customers to buy from us that we often forget that they hold the answers to our success. If we provide a good product or service and we have our customers’ interests at heart, they’ll want us to do well and they’ll want to build relationships with us. In short, they’re rooting for us.

– Want to know what success looks like for your customer? Ask the customer what they’re trying to achieve, what’s stoping them from getting there, and what they require to remove the barriers.

– Want to know why you won the deal, so you can improve your offering? Ask the customer.

– Want to know why you lost the deal, so you can improve your offering? Ask the customer, but make it easy to get honest feedback by sending someone not involved in the deal, because it might be personal.

– Want to know how you can sell better? Ask the customer how they want to buy.

– Want to know what products and services to develop next? Ask the customer. They may not know what the next big thing is going to be, but they know what’s big for them right now.

– Want to know how much to charge? Ask the customer what they’re prepared to pay.

If in doubt, customer will out, to paraphrase Mr Shakespeare…

The latest argument with Mrs D – or, as I like to call it, a robust discussion – reminded me of how important it is in both our personal and business lives to communicate well.  Have you ever been in a group dynamic (dinner party, dialogue for 2, meeting) and noticed how often people interrupt each other?  How often somebody asks a question and the next person chooses not to answer it, and asks their own question or makes a statement pushing their own view or agenda?  Annoying, isn’t it?

I’m no saint, and it’s something I have to work on all the time, but I try to respect the other person and wait til they’ve finished talking, and then either answer their question or further the topic in some way.  It’s about respecting the person and what they have to say, and contributing something that gets you both nearer to where you need to be.  It’s basic marketing isn’t it?  Listen-absorb-consider-contribute.

OK, so sometimes people will ramble, have nothing of worth to say, or love the sound of their own voice, and you need to work with them a little.  But generally speaking (pun intended), it’s a case of ‘I know you’re hearing me, but are you listening?’