There is nothing more annoying to me than poor customer service, especially when attempting to accomplish a task over the phone and there's no eye contact. Recently I had a refreshing experience when visiting a particular retail store for the first time-EVER! I had put it off for quite some time because although I'd done my research, I was still not confident in my ability in purchasing a precise product. Thanks to the lovely employee who assisted me, the otherwise dreaded chore was a success. Once the sale was finalized after I'd expressed how much I appreciated and admired not only her professionalism, but most importantly her customer service skills by listening to my concerns, she was very enthusiastic in expressing how I made her day. The entire scenario actually went a bit deeper to the point where our conversation continued once I made it home and there may have been a few tears, but I'll spare you the details. Aside from a job offer a friendship developed as well, all due to her exercising the basic skill of listening.
We often forget how important it is to offer a listening ear whether in our work environments or socializing with friends and family. Even our significant others when we know they have good intentions, but listening is not a skill that everyone possesses. I willingly admit that I have been guilty of this over the years. We have good intentions as it's our nature to want to help others be it in a customer service situation or a loved one. The issue is that first of all, we can't be of assistance when we don't take time to listen in an effort of discovering the actual need. Often in our haste, we begin throwing out suggestions and advice before acquiring the necessary information. I'm certain that at some point we've all experienced both sides of this scenario. I've been quick to offer advice when it wasn't being sought as well as receiving advice that had nothing to do with what I was saying because while the person may have been hearing my words, they weren't actually listening. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when I know that individual thinks they're helping. In recognizing that feeling, I do my best to stay mindful of how vital it can be to simply offer a listening ear.
Obviously, there are various reasons we can be so quick to give advice. Some believe they are what I like to call "fixers", thinking they have all the answers to fix the problems at hand. The reality is no one can nor is the other party (in most cases) expecting us to solve their problems. Then there are those who for their own reasons feel it gives them purpose, those who yearn to feel needed. Unfortunately, the downside (speaking from personal experiences) is that when people feel they are not being heard it can cause them to shut down and become withdrawn. They begin to hold things in which as we know can be unhealthy. We all want/need to be heard to an extent. Every V.O.I.C.E. matters, which is the beauty of it. When we truly listen and engage by not necessarily offering our opinions or advice, but by asking questions and being present in the conversation, we provide encouragement and hope in the form of empathy. Along with that provides a sense of comfort by establishing trust, because regardless of who's doing the listening or the talking, we have now become equals. Neither person is greater or less than the other because we've established what I refer to as a safe zone. When we listen it's also an opportunity to learn and grasp insight for ourselves. That's not to say the two parties need to agree, but by listening we can discover a person's train of thought, perhaps a broader perspective on the matter or simply acquiring a better understanding of the relative/friend we care about.
Through all my social engagements with employees, co-workers, my children as well as friends regardless of which side I'm on (listening or talking), I've learned that the biggest gift of having a listening ear can also have a huge positive affect. During these chaotic times when many are facing mental health challenges, suicides deaths are increasing and those who are depressed due to current circumstances, let's keep in mind that although we have good intentions, now more than ever we can make a difference. We never know how close to the edge someone may be and may possibly even save a life when we offer a listening ear to our loved ones and those who may not have options for other outlets.