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Many times in life we have faulty communication strategies.  We just can’t wait for a moment when we can start bombarding people with our thoughts and ideas.  In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey states that in order to have meaningful communication and truly understand what a person is saying we must develop “empathetic listening.”  That is, we must be able to almost feel what a person is communicating.

I tend to think of myself as a good listener.  However, this year I had been having some trouble closing deals.  For example, this summer I gave a landscaping bid to a customer only to find out a week later that she had given the bid to someone else.  When she explained that she had given her job to a different outfit, she said she had given the bid to them based on a different design.  I felt betrayed.  I wasn’t given a chance to give opinions or to offer a different design.

Moreover, when I initially surveyed the job, the customer seemed to know what she wanted, so took measurements and later gave her the bid.  I thought to myself how could she take a bid for a different design? She wasn’t fair. She didn’t compare apples to apples.  I wasn’t given the opportunity to offer a different design.

Then, I realized that maybe the other contractor had created the opportunity himself.  Maybe if I had probed, if I had asked the right questions, I had been given the job.  I wasn’t listening empathically.  I wasn’t seeking to understand.  I should have been seeking the purpose for her chosen design and challenged it, perhaps offered my own design.  I wasn’t listening empathetically.  As a result, I learned a valuable lesson in sales and customer service.

From that moment forward, I was looking for purpose, I seeking to understand, to listen empathetically.  This resulted in getting four out of six bids I gave this fall, which any landscaper will tell you is way above average.