Solving The Right Problem

Albert Einstein was quoted as having said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”  It’s also true that most people in a discussion are more focused on how they will answer the other person’s comments than they are on what the other person is actually saying.  And yet, no matter how often customers are told that businesses are listening to them, a great number of customers express the feeling that their concerns aren’t being heard or that what they’re saying is being ignored.

Listening Is Easy

It really isn’t and this is where we tend to go wrong.  Listening is a complex activity that requires focus and concentration, and the ability to understand information so that it doesn’t lose anything in the transfer from one person’s voice — whether it’s spoken or written or otherwise communicated — to your ears.  And once you have received the information, it’s imperative to acknowledge that the information is being filtered through your own experiences, biases, and knowledge base.  It takes time, effort, and focus to truly listen effectively and that’s why listening isn’t as easy as we are led to believe from the time we’re children and through our adult lives.

Getting The Key Point Is Easy

It really isn’t and this is the next point where we tend to get things wrong.  We are emotional beings and as such, our decisions and our upsets are tied to what needs have been ignored in the attempt to fulfill wants.   Let’s say that you own a garage that fixes cars.  Let’s say that a customer has had work done on his car and he is unhappy with the work done.  When the customer complains, you may think the key point is that he feels he paid too much for the work done which the customer believes falls below his expectations.  What he may really be complaining about is that you have stolen a sense of security from him, and that work that falls below his expectations has left him feeling unsafe in his own vehicle.  Instead of believing you know the key point, ask as many questions as is necessary to really get the key point.  It takes some doing, but it’s well worth the time invested to really get to the key point.

A Mind Tends To Wander

This all depends on whether you’re really listening to the other person, or if you’ve already made up your mind about what the problem is and how you plan to resolve matters.   The mind can process 500 words per minute but the average person speaks only about half that many words.  It’s an “unfair” fight when you have 250 words actually spoken v 500 words processed by the mind.    This is why people assume that minds tend to wander when what they’re really doing is looking for more information to process.  Knowing that this is a fact, it draws home the point that listening is a complex activity that requires focus and concentration.

Assume Responsibility For Understanding

Your job as a listener is to vet out as much information as possible to understand what the other person is saying.  I realize that this meme making the rounds on social media.

The bottom line is that while you may not be responsible for what others understand, it is your responsibility to understand what others are saying to you.  And you are responsible for doing your utmost to help others understand what you are saying.  Why?  Because not everyone out there will be as avid a listener as you, and they may not realize any of the things that you already knew — or have learned — about listening in reading this blog article.

Final Note

Before you can come up with the right solution to a problem, you have to identify the problem.  Before you can identify the problem, you have to listen to the information being shared with you about the problem.  And while others around you may be jumping ahead with putting a solution in place without really knowing what the problem is, others will remember how effective you are at problem-solving … and all because you actually invested time in listening to what was being said instead of assuming you knew what was being said.

Elyse Bruce

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