Ask What They Need, Then Listen

The older I get, the less I talk and the more I listen.  And I listen more closely than I have in the past.

We can improve our relationships and our success by improving our listening skills. First we must learn when to be quiet, and then we need to become better listeners.

At our Bed & Breakfast, the Phantom History House, we work hard to make our guests as comfortable as possible.  Many times this involves paying attention to what they say, and learning what they need to have a truly relaxing stay.

Many of our guests, particularly “women of a certain age,” are often quiet surprised when we pay close attention to them.  Our culture has a habit of disregarding these women, and it’s always gratifying to see them react and appreciate when we simply give them our full attention.

We also try to listen closely to make sure guests get the things they need.  We had one guest who mentioned that she needed to run to the store because she ended each day with a Mountain Dew.  It was a great pleasure to surprise her later that day when she discovered that our mini-fridge was stocked with Mountain Dew.

I also work with marching bands and music educators.  Band directors are the busiest people I know, juggling so many tasks and responsibilities at one time!  I encourage all band directors to take time to stop and look around and take stock of what’s not really working well.  What part of your program is not meeting the level of excellence and expectation of the other parts?

Once you get clear on this, go to the staff members who work with that group, and ask them what they need.  Also ask the students.  THEN LISTEN!

Resist the temptation to jump into the conversation defensively or with ideas for solutions.  Just hear them out and take the information in.  The time for brain-storming solutions will come, and involving the instructors and students in finding the solutions is the best way to get lasting results and buy-in.

I sometimes fantasize about a world where politicians ask teachers what they need to be successful, and then really listen.  Or a world where patients really pay attention to their doctors and the advice they give, and then have the courage to really follow it.  Or a world where someone asks me for advice in the gym, and then I see them actually follow it.

But for now I focus on the many wonderful friends in my life who DO listen when I need it and are always there for me.  I appreciate the wonderful clients who listen and take my advice when designing their shows, or at least let me be an important part of the conversation.  And I’m thankful for readers like you who are interested in what I have to say and have read to this entire blog post.  Keep listening, keeping finding voices you trust, and share the gift of listening closely with the world.

Tim Hinton

May 4, 2024

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