The breakup that comes out of nowhere. The cancellation of cabel service. The surprising resignation: The obvious signs were there, even outsiders could see the problems from far away. But people closest to the situation had no idea. They were surprised. Shocked.
Why do people and businesses have such a big problem hearing tough messages, aka the truth?
In surveys, conducted by Personnel Decisions International, managers seem to have skewed perceptions about their openness to challenging news. The results showed that managers often signal to their employees that they don’t want to hear bad news. In addition, many employees censor themselves. This broken communication model is hazardous to both parties: Bad news are not being communicated and positive ideas might be considered criticism. And not expressed.
Same is true for businesses.
Many businesses claim to listen but, ultimately, they just want to reinforce their own opinion. It’s not enough to just listen, you need to listen with an open mind. How?
First, admit that your business is a bad listener. You might have the best intentions but some of your actions (wittingly or not) just indicate to everyone that you don’t really listen.
Second, admit that it’s hard for you to take criticism. Believe me, it’s hard for everyone but criticism is the lifeline to your future success.
Third, it might be better if somebody else does the listening for you. Hire somebody you find trustworthy to listen to the conversation that’s happening out there. Somebody that doesn’t have a stake in your business. Somebody that didn’t pour his heart and soul into nurturing your business. Criticism doesn’t mean anything to them: They are not the ones being criticized. There are numerous companies out there listening to conversations all day long. (This fine one is one of them.)
And then it’s time for you to listen: Sit back and just listen. Don’t respond. Don’t react. Just listen. It might be the best thing you could ever do for your business.