First, I have to apologize for the lateness of this post. By the end, I think you’ll get it.
I’m taking a bunch of courses, reading a bunch of books, and steeping myself in learning right now. I’m working my way through Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (again. One day I’ll make it to the end.), a book on learning how to be more charismatic, a teleclass on Natural Selling (without fear of rejection), an online interactive class on making your stories BIGGER, and, of course, learning my product and how to sell it. Wow. Now that I look at this all written down, that’s a lot all at once. I think I’m glad I didn’t sign up for those other two classes.
Back to the point: the classes about sales, charisma, getting rich AND bigger stories all have one concept in common, although they all phrase it differently: presence. Every single one presents the idea that to do better, to be bigger, to have that aura, you have to stop and actually listen– to your customers, to your characters, to your acquaintances. But it’s not about listening while coming up with your own response. It’s about just listening.
In 2007, I finished off the last of my mother’s inheritance; this money had allowed to me to journey cross country to visit my friends and family all over the U.S., and then go live in Scotland for a month. It was an amazing experience, and I would not trade it away even for the highest returning portfolio I could have had instead. I needed that time alone and on my own. Eventually, however, the money ran out, and I had to find another way to put food in my belly. So I got a job.
Specifically, I got a job answering phones for a well-known discount travel agency. That’s not true. Actually, I got a job that started out with training for a mystery client that ended up having me answer phones for a flower delivery company that wanted help taking calls for Mother’s Day. So, yanno, doing that while grieving for my mother, that was fun. After Mother’s Day ended, though, they kept me on and moved me over to the travel side of things, and it was there that I learned the Power of Pushing Back and the Power of Listening.
Pushing Back is so incredibly powerful, but in my experience, it’s not very useful. The thing is, like they say in Science class, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So when you tell someone they can’t have something and sorry not sorry, their equal and opposite reaction is, “The hell I can’t! I will use every drop of energy in my body to tell you why, and if you cannot hear me, I will GET LOUDER UNTIL YOU DO or I exhaust myself.”
My first experience with this was with a couple who had clicked an agreement without reading it (Don’t judge. We all agree to terms and services for every web site out there, and how often do YOU read all the terms?) and then wanted to do something that any logical person would think they should be able to do, except that it was in direct violation to the terms they had just agreed to. First the husband yelled at me until his voice gave out, then his wife picked up the tirade. They seriously tag-teamed me for about 10 minutes, until my supervisor came over, and then they tag teamed him for another 20. I have to admit, it was rather satisfying to have my instructor get yelled at just as bad as me. It’s not always “easy to de-escalate,” so don’t give me that crap.
Except that it actually is, if you’re willing to do what it takes. The funny thing is, what it takes isn’t much: it’s just presence. It’s listening to the other person, and letting them feel heard. People don’t shout, don’t act out, and don’t overreact when they feel heard. Once I figured out this secret, I was never, ever screamed at like that again. I mean, there were a couple of abusive callers who would have taken their crap out on anyone set in front of them—and I did get one famous baseball player who was Quite Put Out that I couldn’t reserve an entire plane for his family and friends (you have to do that directly with the airline.) But really, I didn’t have any more legitimately angry customers, because there was nothing left for them to be angry about. They were heard.
The funny thing is, it’s not just people that shout. Bodies can shout too. We have different names for it, though. Most often it’s called “flu” or “cold.” And that’s why this post is late. Remember all those intensive classes I was taking at the same time as holding down a full time job? Yeaaaaaah. I’m pretty good at listening to other people; answering phones taught me that. I’m still working on that whole “listening to my own body before it starts shouting” thing.
In the immortal words of Buddy from Night Court, “But I’m feeling MUCH better now!”