Listen or Answer?


Consider a conversation, perhaps with a client, employee, boss, or family member. They ask a question and before they finish, what do you do first: listen or answer? Are your sure? Do you really notice?

I am amazed at how many people start talking with an answer before they know the full question. At best, they are guessing at the question and, at worst, they come off as disinterested and arrogant. Not good.

Of course, I’ve pondered how someone can do this and concluded that, while aggravating, it is not a crime for people to:

  • be eager, or
  • be knowledgeable, or
  • think they are knowledgeable, or
  • think they must be show how knowledgeable they are, or
  • be psychic, or
  • be highly caffienated.  

But remember there is a goal when we discuss a topic. That goal is to communicate in a way that provides maximum value to your clients, vendors, staff and, well, everyone.

Trying to resolve a problem with your favorite solution or to finally close a sale can make you have the urge to “push” information. To make this worse, that “push” can easily come before we really know the issue. So, I suggest that you learn to resist this urge to push. Let me repeat. Resist. Really. 

Woman in a discussionShow a little respect. If you keep cutting someone off when they really are trying to learn more or share information, they will become frustrated or forget the important question you may later wish they had asked. 

And, candidly, most people like to hear themselves talk. Guess what? It is okay to let them do most of the talking. Usually, it is the best scenario! The person that dominates the conversation is not necessarily the one of the most value. It is not a contest to see who can say the most words.

Another bonus of listening. The questions people ask often say more than their statements… IF you take the time to really listen. What are they asking the most about? Money? Security? Compliance? Features? Value? Ease of use? Time? Failure?

If you listen, you may learn the real fears they have and are afraid to directly express. And that magic moment will give you an opportunity, because you were listenting, to be a person of value.


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.