Huh, what did you say? Oh, yeah, listening is everything

Many of us talk a lot, shouldn’t listening be easy? Nope, not really. For years we’ve been told that most people only remember 20% of what they hear. While that number has been challenged, the truth remains that we do not remember all of what we hear. 

New research shows that the 20% number is not accurate, in the end, because there are far too many factors at play to determine exactly how much of what we hear we retain vs. other learning methods. Whether backed by statistics or not, we can all admit that it’s difficult to remember everything we hear.   

Outside factors like boring subject matter, lack of sleep, general lack of interest, poor presentations and the like all contribute to our lack of retention. And in today’s world, with the number of outside stimuli, like cell phones, smartwatches and the ever-present Google, all begging for our attention, we all get pulled away from the most important thing – the real-life person in front of us telling us something they feel is important.  

Which begs the question – are we really listening?

If we’re not, that’s a problem. Especially for marketers. 

In marketing, the best path to success is truly understanding your customers, their wants and their needs. Whether you’re working in an agency and your customer is your client, or you’re working in-house for a CPG company, or a software company, listening to what your customer is saying, and really hearing them, always leads to better business.

The biggest breakdowns I’ve seen in marketing campaigns have always been around communication. The problem is we’re all human, and as the stats above prove – none of us hear everything. If we’re not hearing each other, how can we be successful?

The dangers of not listening:

  • Misalignment
  • Poor quality work
  • Missed opportunities
  • More edits and revisions than needed
  • Less opportunity to learn
  • Wasted time

There are things we can do to overcome hearing misses – simple changes we can make to ensure we’re hearing everything in order to deliver – regardless of the project.

14 things you can try to become a better listener

  • Practice active listening
  • Try not to talk over people; instead, listen, let them finish and then jump in
  • Listen, speak, pause – give others a chance, and be more curious about what they’re about to say than the next thing on your mind
  • Close your computer/put down your phone
  • Look people in the eye when they’re talking
  • Don’t think about what you’ll say next – concentrate on what other people are saying
  • Surround yourself with curious people
  • Be curious yourself
  • Never try to be the smartest or loudest person in the room – instead, focus on being the best listener
  • Yes, talk, but not just for the sake of talking – make the things you say matter 
  • If you are distracted – delay, postpone, and let someone you trust cover for you
  • Take notes and write down EVERYTHING – and if you can, do it in a notebook, not on a screen – the urge to look at Facebook or Google something every 30 seconds is too great and will distract you
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to clarify 
  • At the close of the meeting, recap what you heard (around next steps, objectives, etc.)

These are all things I have tried – what other tips would you add to the list?