Jan 30 2014

Close Mouth, Open Ears – Someone’s Talking

You: “I would like a cheeseburger, small fries, and a small iced tea… that’s all.” 

Drive-Up Window: “Would you like cheese on your burger?”

You: “Yes, a CHEESE-burger, small fries, and a small iced tea… that’s all.”

Window: “Small, medium, or large?”

You: “One CHEESE-burger, SMALL fries, and a SMALL iced tea… that’s all.”

Window: “So that’s a cheeseburger with cheese, small fries, and small iced tea. Will that be all?”

You: “Never mind, I’m not hungry.”

Is it just me, or did that employee not hear a word I was saying?  Sheesh!  How hard can it be?  Instead of really listening, they were just hearing a voice on the other side of the intercom.  What’s really happening here?  Please tell me you don’t do this to your customers!

Effective communication happens between two people when the listener understands the speaker’s message in the same way the speaker intended it.

Listening is not waiting until someone is finished talking before you say something. If you’re the one doing the talking, people will be more willing to listen to you if you take the time to really hear them.

Here are some tips to make sure you understand what your customers are trying to tell you:

  1. Close mouth, open ears!
  2. There is a difference between just hearing the words and actually listening for the message.
  3. Hearing is a physical ability, listening is a skill.
  4. Do not evaluate or make judgements about the person speaking.
  5. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand.
  6. Do not be preoccupied.
  7. Listen with respect and validation.
  8. Don’t mentally argue.
  9. Adjust to the situation.
  10. Avoid thinking about your own personal beliefs about what is being said.
  11. Listen with a willingness to be persuaded.
  12. Stay present.
  13. Make eye contact.
  14. Repeat or restate for verification.
  15. Notice nonverbal cues, body language.
  16. Avoid interrupting.
  17. Avoid jumping to conclusions.
  18. Know when to respond.
  19. Never assume what the speaker assumes or is thinking.
  20. Let the speaker finish their sentences. Don’t do it for them.
  21. Don’t look for flaws or weak spots you can attack.
  22. Don’t pretend, actually listen.
  23. Show genuine interest.
  24. Look for intent and feelings behind the words.
  25. Use “listening” body language. Face and lean toward speaker.
  26. Do not try to form a response while listening.
  27. Prevent quick responses.
  28. Acknowledge the speaker’s feelings.
  29. Give feedback- smile, nod, frown, raise eyebrows, shrug, etc.
  30. Offer advice only if asked.
  31. Do not jump to conclusions. Hear everything.

Communication is a two-way street.  Effective listening is just one side.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to make your message easy to communicate so the listener understands you.

Do you have “cheeseburger” story to share?  I would love to hear it.  Let me know in the comments below!


  • By Glen, March 25, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

    Like everyone, I imagine, this happens all the time.
    In some defense of the employees they are given what amounts to a script for products which they repeat over and over again through their shifts whether it makes sense or not.

  • By Tim, March 25, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

    I hear you…but cheeseburger with cheese? 🙂

  • By Danny, March 30, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

    I went to Boston Market the other day, and the conversation went like this…

    (from the drive-up speaker)
    Dumb bitch – “Thank you for choosing Boston Market, would you like to try our meatloaf dinner?”

    Me- “Ummm… NO.”

    Dumb bitch – “You DO want meatloaf?”

    Me – “NO, I do not.”

    Dumb bitch – “Okay, what sides do you want?”

    Me – “Hang on, Ima come inside.”

    (inside) Dumb bitch – “Hello, may I take your order?”

    Me – “Well, I definitely do not want meatloaf…”

    Dumb bitch – “You want meatloaf?”

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