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Listening Online Isn’t A Lost Art, You Must Find It

If you are even a casual reader of my posts here at Biznology you will see that one of my hobbies is to observe what might called the “conventional wisdom” of the Internet space and then call bullshit on it if I think it’s a fair assessment. Fortunately, there is a never-ending font of information to feed this terrible habit of mine. Of course, I say fortunately for me. You may think differently but last I checked the good ol’ US is still a free country and your opinions can be voiced. (Did I just see a drone in the distance?!) So what’s my gripe this week? It’s simple. We (the Internet / online marketing /social media marketing industry) espouse the latest and greatest things. Social CRM’s are getting a lot of play right now. The idea that you can monitor, respond, track work process and generally make your online presence smell like a bed of roses is a popular mantra these days. In some ways it’s true. Well, let’s just say there has been JUST enough success and “truth” that the concept can be sold. And boy is it being sold hard.

Human ear
Photo credit: Wikipedia

But here’s the trouble. By giving people all the choices of being able to supposedly accomplish so much through social media and through the available tools, we are not addressing basic skills that are necessary for any of this to work.

Oh no, you say? In this advanced time we live in, how can I say that we don’t possess some basic skills necessary to capitalize on all that is apparently right at our fingertips if you believe every snake oil salesman in the social media joint? Its easy, because as a race–yeah I am rolling this out on the entire human race regardless of color, creed, faith, sexual orientation, (insert favorite label here)–we suck at one of the most basic things (and that has never been more apparent than in the social age). What doe we suck at? Listening. Did you hear that?

You can find article after article and post after post about the lost art of listening. My claim is that you can’t lose what you never found. How many times in your day-to-day activities have you marveled at just how poorly people listen to others? From infants to geriatrics and all stops in between, we look at people, nod our heads and act as if we care. Then we turn around and try to get what WE need.

We now profess as marketers to have the ability to be in tune with and respond to the every whim of the consumer. Once again, I call bullshit. We have access to more information than ever but we still don’t listen. Sure, we gather and group and sift and sort piles and piles of big data, but it doesn’t mean we are listening. Honestly, if we were truly listening, one would hope we would be further along than where we are now.

So you now ask, “OK, Mr. Know-It-All (that would be me in this case), what’s the solution? Well, I don’t claim to have THE solution but I do have some very unsexy suggestions if you are willing to listen. Here goes.

1. Apply the God-given proportion of 2 eyes and 1 mouth (in the vast majority of situations) by listening twice as much as we talk, at least. We are all about speed and being quick on the draw with a response. Well, guess what? The human algorithm (the brain), while being a brilliant machine, often out-thinks our capabilities to process and apply ideas in a positive manner. Why do you think so many people have shoe polish around their mouths? Listen a lot more than you talk.

2. Accept the fact we are mostly just contributing to the noise. Having a realistic view of what is going on will go a long way to helping us behave more appropriately in the online world. Once we get over our self-importance and stop listening to ourselves first, then, and only then, can we listen to others.

3. Apply a modified 24-hour rule. Admittedly, in the accelerated world we live in the old “24 hour rule,” which asks that you give 24 hours between reception of data and a thoughtful response, might not be the right timing anymore. I would ask that we still take a fair amount of time to think before we talk, tweet, update, post or whatever. I say we go with 12 hours. You probably thought I was going to say 24 minutes right? If so then you are part of the problem and not the solution, but that’s easy for me to type, right? Just give yourself 12 hours before you comment here ;-).

4. Stop needing to be right all the time. There is this ridiculous need to always be right these days. Rarely do people admit fault in anything. That’s why we get more wrong than ever before. Think about that for a second, it’ll make sense.

As always there’s more to this but it’s time for us both to move on and try to apply some of this. That is, of course, if you are willing to listen. My guess is that you won’t be. That’s not a judgment–that’s just an educated guess. I would love to hear about how you have proven me wrong.

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