Chapter 7: To Be A Skilled Communicator
I met a famous botanist at a dinner hosted
by a New York publisher.
This was my first encounter with a botanist
so I was immediately drawn to his fascinating stories about exotic herbs
and his experiences growing ornamental plants.
He also enthusiastically advised me
how to solve some problems related to my small garden.
In fact, I broke all the rules of politeness forgetting the presence of dozens
of other guests including the host of the party
to sit and talk for hours with this botanist.
Late at night,
I say hello to everyone and leave.
It is said that at that time,
the botanist turned to the host,
praised me as the most interesting person,
and then concluded that I was the best talker.
Actually, I didn’t say much,
but I was praised as a good talker
because I was completely ignorant of botany
so I just sat still and listened.
The reason I listened attentively was
because I was really interested in what he had to say.
He felt it and it delighted him.
Listening is one of the most respectful ways we can show the other person.
I do recall saying a few short sentences
that “I have learned a lot from you
and wish to acquire your knowledge.
I really wanted to wander with you on the steppes.
I would have to anyway,
see you again.”
He praised me for speaking well just
because I know how to listen and encouraged him to share.
C. W. Eliot, the former President of Harvard University,
is also a master of the art of listening.
Henry James, one of America’s first great novelists,
commented on him:
“Dr. Eliot’s way of listening was not merely silent,
but a form of active listening.
He looks attentively at the person’s face
and listens with both ears and eyes.
He listens with a clear mind,
focused thinking and analyzing what you are sharing heart.”
The profoundness of the word “listening”
is also very evident in the language
that is considered the most commonly used in the world.
If we look at the written word in Chinese,
we will see that the word “listen” is written by the characters
that make up the inner word:
Listening here implies that we need to open our ears,
eyes, and hearts to become one with the person we are communicating
with and show them their importance.
Listening to others is very important.
Yet there are department store owners
who are willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on advertising,
rent expensive space,
and hire employees who don’t listen,
even interrupt or talk,
contrary to the customer’s wishes,
causing unfavorable feelings like wanting
to kick customers out of the store.
Mrs. Douglas, my student,
bought the jacket at a discount at a store in Chicago.
When she got home,
she noticed a tear in the lining.
The next day,
she returned only complaining
that the store sold her a broken shirt,
but had no intention of claiming any compensation!
But before listening to all the words,
the salesman hastily interrupted that:
She bought the goods at a discount,
moreover all the transactions have been completed.
She had to take responsibility
for herself and sew her own stitches.
Thus, she not only refused all responsibility
but also insulted her,
criticized her for liking cheap products,
so she had to suffer.
Mrs. Douglas was so upset that she couldn’t speak,
vowing never to return to this store again.
At that moment, the store manager appeared,
listened attentively to the whole story,
examined the shirt and,
after sincerely expressing regret,
repeatedly apologized for her wrong attitude staff for her.
The manager said:
The no return policy after purchase does not apply to damaged items.
Unfortunately, this item is out of stock to exchange for you.
So we will gladly repair
or replace the lining of this shirt or if you wish,
we will ask for your refund.
Before the manager’s polite attitude,
she was listened to properly, so she said:
– Fault in the lining is not a problem.
Just because she didn’t listen,
the employee almost lost the store’s profits
by several thousand dollars a year.
In the family,
listening is an important factor to maintain happiness.
One afternoon, Mary Esposito was sitting with her son Robert.
Suddenly Robert said:
– Mommy ! I know that Mom loves me very much.
Mrs. Esposito was moved:
– Of course I love you very much,
but how do you know?
– I know because every time I tell you anything,
you stop what you’re doing and listen to me.
Humans have a habit of attacking others,
but even the most aggressive will have to soften
before someone who listens patiently and in good faith.
One day, a New York telephone company was booed,
and threatened by a customer who didn’t pay a sizable phone bill
because he thought it was a fraud.
He wrote letters to the newspapers,
filed numerous lawsuits
with the Public Service Commissions,
and then went on to sue the phone company in Court.
To solve this problem, the company sent a person
with the most skillful speech,
dubbed the “Troubleshooter” to negotiate.
He listened to the other person aggressively release his excitement
and always replied: “Yes”, “Yes”, “Yes”,
He yelled at me and I listened for almost 3 hours,
the representative told our class.
After that I went back to visit him a few more times.
By the fourth time,
I had automatically become a member of the Association
to protect the phone bill payers started by him.
To this day, that Association still has only one member,
that is me, if not counting the founder.
I never mentioned the purpose of the visits,
but at the fourth meeting,
after venting all his pent up anger,
he voluntarily paid all bills
and withdrew all complaints.
This client saw himself as a knight,
defending justice against ruthless exploitation.
But what he really wanted was to feel important.
At first he sought that feeling
by fighting and complaining.
But after that,
when people went down with him,
people recognized his logic,
agreed with his views,
generally people lost to him,
which means that he achieved his purpose of seeing himself as important,
won so the purpose to cause trouble is no longer.
One morning many years ago an angry customer burst
into the office of Julian Dedmer,
the founder of the Detmer wool company.
This company became the wool distributor
for the entire US garment industry. Mr. F. J. Detmer told me:
“This customer owes us a small amount.
After receiving several reminders, he immediately went
to Chicago and burst into my office to tell me:
he wouldn’t pay that bill and would never buy any more
from my Detmer wool company.
Because I understood that it was not good.
I let him cool off.
When he finally calmed down,
Thank you for taking the trouble to come here and tell me this.
You helped me.
It’s a big deal because if our accounting department let this happen to you,
it might as well to other clients.
Now I can’t wait to hear more.
Obviously he didn’t expect me to say that.
You can even tell he’s a little disappointed that he’s gone all the way
to Chicago to vent his anger
but here we go.
I thanked him again,
but did not argue with him at all.
I assure you that we will review
and remove the money.
I also add that because my staff has
to calculate thousands of different books,
it is easier to make mistakes than you.
I also said that I understood his feelings very well
and if I were in his position,
I would certainly do the same as him
and since he announced that he would not buy from us anymore,
I recommend him a few other wool sellers,
trusted in the area so he could trade.
In the past, we used to have lunch together
every time he came to Chicago,
so when I invited him to lunch again,
he reluctantly accepted.
But something unexpected happened
when I returned to the office.
That is, he has placed an order for my company
that is larger than the orders ever.
Returning home, wanting
to be as reasonable to us as we were to him,
he checked the sales invoices again and,
when he found one that had been missed,
sent it to us a check sheet with apologies.
Then, when his wife gave birth to a son,
he gave him the middle name Detmer.
He remained a friend of mine
and a client of my company until his death 22 years later.”
There is also the story of a poor Dutch immigrant boy
who helped support his family.
Every day after school,
he had to clean the windows rented
for a cake shop and then go to the parking lot of the ladder trucks
that often unloaded goods,
to quickly pick up the fallen ladders.
Young Edward Bok only had 6 years of schooling,
but growing up,
he became one of the most successful newspaper publishers in the history
of American journalism.
How did you do that? Leaving school at the age of 13,
working as an office worker for Western Union,
he never gave up his determination to improve himself.
He began to study on his own.
He saved money on bus tickets
and fasted from lunch until he had enough money
to buy an Encyclopedia of Biography of American Famous People.
He wrote to these Celebrities and asked
for more information about their youth.
At the same time, he also wrote to General James Garfield,
who at the time was campaigning for President
and asked if he had worked as a boatman on a canal as a child?
Garfield responded to your letter.
He also wrote to General Grant to inquire about a battle.
Grant showed him the map and even invited the 14 year old boy to lunch,
talking all afternoon.
Before long, the boy running errands for Western Union,
was correspondence with many of the country’s most famous figures:
Louisa May Alcott, Lady Abraham Lincoln,
General Sherman, every time he got a chance,
he went to visit them again.
He was always warmly received.
These great characters instilled in him an invaluable faith,
a new perspective on life and a desire to build his own life.
a journalist who has interviewed hundreds of celebrities,
commented: “Many people don’t make a good first impression
because they don’t listen.
They are too concerned with what they are about to say.
I can’t let my ears listen to the other person.
Many outstanding characters have told me
that they prefer good listeners to good talkers.”
But the ability to listen seems rarer than any other virtue.
Not only important people want someone
to listen to them,
but also ordinary people.
As someone once wrote in Reader’s Digest that:
“Many people invite doctors to come just to listen to themselves”.
During the darkest hours of the Civil War,
Lincoln wrote to an old friend from Springfield, Illinois,
to Washington to discuss some issues.
The friend went to the White House
and Lincoln talked for hours about the emancipation speech.
Lincoln presented all the arguments for
and against emancipation and then read the letters and articles.
Some articles criticize him for not freeing the slaves,
others condemn him for freeing the slaves.
After finishing the lecture,
Lincoln shook hands with his friend good night,
sending the friend back to Illinois without consulting.
Actually Lincoln didn’t need advice.
He just needed a willing listener so he could vent.
This is what we all want in times of trouble.
Every frustrated customer,
every disgruntled employee,
or every offended person wants to be heard.
The eminent psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud,
impressed others with his attentive listening attitude.
One person said of his attitude
when listening to others:
“He made such a strong impression on me
that I will certainly never forget him.
He has qualities that I have never seen in a person.
Attitude to listen to the fullest,
a clear mind shown through insight,
eyes that are gentle and sharp,
voice soft and friendly,
very few gestures.
What he meant for me,
how he respectfully appreciated
what I said even when I got it wrong.
If you want others to avoid you, make fun of you,
or be disappointed in yourself behind your back,
just act like this:
Never listen to what anyone says!
Go on and on and on about yourself.
If you suddenly have an idea,
you can just interrupt people’s words,
regardless of what people are saying!
In fact, people who only think about themselves are uneducated people
no matter how highly educated they are.
If you want to be good at speaking,
you must listen attentively.
To be taken care of by others,
you must care for others.
Ask questions they like to answer.
Encourage them to talk about themselves
and their accomplishments.
Because sympathy, sharing is stronger than words
and joy and sincerity will be truly sustainable
when you know how to care
for others as you used to care for yourself.
Please remember that the people you are talking
to are a hundred times more concerned with themselves,
their desires, their problems
than caring about you and your problems.
Remember that every time you start a conversation.
We are born with only one mouth,
but the mouth is a sharp weapon.
Mouth can hurt,
or even kill someone.
Please remember this sentence:
look and listen more.
And a well-known principle in people management:
“People often don’t care about you or your work
until they know that you really care about their problems.”
“The silence is more melodious than any music” – Christina Rossetti
“The more in silence, the more you can hear” – Baba Ram Dass
Principle 7: Listen and encourage others to talk about their problems.