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Listening with Prejudice

5th Dec 2017 / By Chris Jones

One of the things I’m always banging on about is the importance of listening, but it’s not just the act of listening that matters, it’s the kind of listening you do. Put simply, there are two ways to listen. You can listen to learn or you can listen to respond.

Response listening is very selective. We tune out those parts of the discussion that don’t chime with us and home in only on those sound bites that either support our preconceived notions or reveal a chink in the other person’s line of thinking. In truth, this is not listening, it’s a kind of duel – point scoring, if you will. And if both parties are actively engaged, then what you have is an argument. And the thing with arguments is that someone has to win and someone has to lose. Fine if you’re at a debating society shindig, but not fine if you actually want to move your brand to a better, bigger place.

And if you’re in a situation where one party is in sharing mode and the other is in response mode, then the sharer might as well save their breath. The Responder will only hear what they want to hear – a bit like those cinema posters – “Tilda Swinton is amazing” it proclaims, but the full text in the review reads “Tilda Swinton is amazing, but, apart from her, the film is a self-serving piece of navel gazing dreck”

Then we have the 3rd way – both parties in listen and learn mode – this is the good space. Someone who feels they’re being listened to feels more at ease. They feel more of a bond to the listener and are willing to open up and share more of themselves and their views. The interaction becomes a discussion full of contextual and adjacent insights, laced with tangential offshoots, and it’s here, away from the direct line of questioning, that the real answers lie.

So, next time you’re doing some research, or conducting a brand review or looking to develop some new advertising, ask yourself – do I want to win the argument, or do I want to win more customers?

Chris Jones, Research Director at MCKENNA JONES LTD