When it comes to the similarities between listening and hearing, the only one is you use your ears for both. After that, they’re very different.

Melissa Shaw, Network World

As the mother of two “tween” girls, I can assure you that there is a huge divide between “hearing” and “listening” taking place in my house. As a parent, this leads to one of my greatest frustrations: I know my children hear me when I tell them to turn off the TV, brush their teeth, put their shoes on, go to bed, etc.  … but they just don’t listen. Until I start shouting … Are your clients shouting at you? Are you listening?? Lindsay Griffiths discusses this in her post  Is Anyone Listening?

Do we bother our clients or potential clients with information that they’ve asked not to receive? Do we help them when they need it and let them be when they want some solitude? What is our customer service experience really like for them – are we overbearing, like these store owners? Or are we facilitators, business partners, trusted advisors? Do we insist that we know what’s best for them, without finding out what it is that they really want and need? Does that ultimately push them away?

Are we too focused on the messages WE want to deliver, and not necessarily on the messages our clients want to receive? Are we just talking AT the client, and not engaging them in a conversation? True story: At a prior firm we were preparing for a MAJOR beauty contest so we brought in an industry leader to help prep our attorneys. For those who have done these in the past, a lot of role playing takes place in a hotel conference room, with a video camera recording it all. The video is then played back and we can all quickly see what “lessons” need to be learned. Our lead partner did a great job with his opening remarks, then sat down while the next partner stood up to give his portion of the presentation to the “clients.” Partner One, however, isn’t paying attention during his colleague’s remarks. There is no active listening taking place. He is playing with his Blackberry, looking around the room, doodling. His eyes were anywhere but focused on what was taking place in the room. And it was extremely obvious to everyone. How often are WE not guilty of this? How often are WE checking messages under the desk as if everyone else in the room cannot see what we’re doing? How often are WE looking at our computer screen when someone walks into our office to talk? How often are WE tapping away when we’re supposed to be listening on a conference call?? Notice that I keep saying WE, because I am guilty of all of these behaviors as well. But WE cannot change a behavior that we don’t notice and recognize as wrong. As the marketing professionals within our firms, or the senior partner in the practice, is it not up to us to mirror the correct behavior? Should we not be the first ones to arrive at the meeting? Should we not be the ones to actively turn our phones off and put them away? Should we not be asking questions, and then sitting back in our chairs and ACTIVELY listening to the answers? I’m a gabber by nature, and find that I have to ACTIVELY shut myself up! When you think about it, how long does it take for you to stop hearing and start listening to a conversation? What’s it going to take for you to change your behavior? Oh, as for the beauty contest … when we pointed the behavior out to the partner and showed him the video tape, he rejected it, along with our suggestions, and walked out of the room. We didn’t win the business.