Are You Listening?

listening_deviceI went into a restaurant the other day, and upon sitting down at a table a male server strolled up – acting very cool, almost to the point of appearing to not care whether I was there or not – and said, “Hey buddy. A beer? Iced tea?”

I replied, “A Pepsi, please.” “You bet,” and off he sauntered.

I sat there looking over the menu, decided what I wanted, and placed the menu on the table in the obvious “someone-come-take-my-order-please” position.

I sat… and sat… and sat… Still no drink.

Mr. Cool Server looked my way a few times from across the restaurant, but still no drink.

Finally, after what was definitely more than five minutes without anyone seeming to admit that I even existed, a woman server walked over and asked if anyone had taken my drink order. “Yes, someone took it but I think he may have forgotten,” I replied, “And I’d also like to order my meal.” She took my order, walked over to the end of the bar and began touching in my order on that magic screen. I also overheard her tell another server to get me a Pepsi.

About that time Mr. Cool Server looked at me from across the restaurant, appeared to realize he had forgotten my drink, picked up a glass and flipped it around like some type of juggler, filled it with Pepsi, and brought it to my table. “Here you go, Bud.” (Mr. Cool Server and I were best friends now… apparently)

The woman server told the other server not to bother getting my drink and then turned to me and asked again what it was I wanted to eat. She had forgotten.

My point to this story is that neither server truly listened to me. They were going through the motions, but not engaged in listening to me, their customer. That’s not a good thing for someone in the service business!

How often have you caught yourself doing this kind of thing? You know, half listening to someone, but not completely? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person to have done this. And I’m not just talking about when conversing with your spouse!

Try this for a day: Pay attention, completely, to every conversation you’re involved in. How do you do that? One way is to repeat, in your mind, everything the other person is saying, while they are saying it. I know what you’re thinking: Then how am I going to form what I want to say in reply – how am I going to prepare what I want to say next? That’s just the point. Don’t prepare. Instead, just listen.

You may be surprised at how difficult this is. Why? Because it’s not our normal way of communicating. But, communicating is a two-way street. For many people, communicating is a one-way – it’s all about them talking. But listening is an equal to talking in the communication process.

You may also be surprised at how effective it is. Try it. Totally engage in listening for a day. Who knows? You might like it. You might find that you hear a lot more. You might find that the people on the receiving end of your communication appreciate you that much more. You might find that you become more productive.

And who knows? It might lead to a bigger tip.

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