Listening to understand is hard to do. This is true even for someone who received a master’s degree in communication. You know the saying: We don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply.

I recently thought about how I should be authentic in business as we approach 2020. I decided to ask my channel partners about it.

Listening to understand helped me learn how to communicate with customers

Kammy Caruss, YNotWeb

Kammy and I were classmates in the Think Big Program in 2011 and we’ve been partners since.

When meeting business owners (all of whom could be considered potential clients) in person, I simply treat them as a person first, never a potential client. Being rather picky about who I work with, I would rather get to know people in a more personal way: their favorite things, their likes and dislikes, and what they are passionate about. You learn a lot about a person’s potential as a business contact when just learning about the person. Just as our Think Big match-meetings helped us discern what kind of people we wanted to partner with, so do we vet potential business relationships.

Raven Tahara, The Symbolist

I met Raven at a Folsom Chamber of Commerce mixer. We’ve been partners for 7 years.

As a former graduate (and employee) of the Dale Carnegie Institute, something deeply ingrained in me are the Carnegie Course principles. Some of them include learning and remembering names, taking a sincere interest in them, and letting them talk about themselves and their situations. This deep listening, which usually involves thoughtful questions (that demonstrate that I actually am listening), is what demonstrates to people that I genuinely care, that I have their best interests at heart, and that I am passionate about what excites them most. I make every effort to be real and transparent about what is going on with me. If I am unable to do a project, or unable to meet a deadline, it is important for me to keep my clients in the loop. This has meant showing all my cards at times like saying, “I’m having a major surgery and will be out of commission for a few weeks.” People understand because everyone has life happening to them and usually we are bonded to the point that they deeply care about what is happening. They want the best outcome and want to be supportive.

Corey Walker, The Marketing Specialist

I also met Corey through the Folsom Chamber of Commerce. We’ve been partners for 7 years. We’re also co-authors of the books Instagram for Business for Dummies and Instagram for Dummies.

The first way I show authenticity and passion is by responding to requests or social media comments quickly. Even if that means telling someone that I don’t have the answer at the moment. I like to acknowledge that I have received someone’s request at the very minimum. The second way is to show up as the real me as much as possible online. I think most people that know me in person would say I am that same person online. I don’t put on a fake influencer hat or act like a hustling social media mogul. I’m a business woman learning new things and juggling life just like everyone else!

So, what are the lessons I learned from my partners?

  • Show up as the real me online and in person.
  • Get to know your clients and treat them as real people.
  • Let people talk about themselves and ask them thoughtful questions.
  • Be picky about who you work with.
  • Respond to and send messages to people as soon as possible.
  • Be transparent about why you can’t meet a deadline.

By listening to understand, my partners helped me find my weak points and how I could improve.

Yet listening to understand means I need more, so I want to hear from you. What do you think?