As I enter the 45-year mark of this amazing business called advertising, it seems like we have lost so many of the fundamentals that made this industry so powerful, starting with the art of listening. An incredibly important skill for success in the advertising agency business, and yet we seem to have become such poor listeners. Recently I told my staff that although we have always been given high marks for our listening skills, it never hurts to polish our techniques for our clients, coworkers, family, friends and anyone else we should run into. That listening was a form of art we needed to re-teach ourselves.

The art of listening, from my perspective, is to focus actively and empathetically on what someone else is communicating – both verbally and non-verbally. To go beyond just hearing the words being spoken and actually pay attention, showing genuine interest, and being present in the moment.

Listening is a vital aspect of effective communication and building strong relationships with others, whether in personal or professional settings. Over the years, I’ve thought about “listening” skills, and how 78Madison’s ability to listen well was a cornerstone of our business success. Yes, we are creative, great media planners, and amazing strategic thinkers, but often when a prospect asks one of our clients what stands out about 78Madsion, they will immediately say “they listen well. They hear us. They are uniquely tuned in to our goals and objectives.”

So, what makes a good listener?

Active listening requires being fully engaged in the conversation and giving the person you are speaking to your undivided attention. Avoid getting distracted and focus on what the person is saying. Yup, you need to put away that phone.

Really attempt to understand the speaker’s perspective, emotions, and feelings as they speak. It will help you hear better. Put yourself in their shoes and try to grasp their experiences and point of view.

If you already have a pre-conceived notion about what the speaker is going to say and are not a fan of their “position”, it is really try hard not to form an opinion before the person even speaks. Be open to different ideas and perspectives. You might be surprised at the collaboration that could emerge.

Relationships are strengthened when you give positive cues such as nodding, using affirming words, asking relevant questions, and of course maintaining eye contact.

Allow the person you are speaking with to express themselves fully without interrupting or rushing them. Sometimes, people need time to gather their thoughts and express themselves clearly, and the worst thing you can do is interrupt, and begin to interject your own thoughts. One of the most relational things you can do is to patiently listen to someone else.

In today’s digital age, it’s essential to minimize distractions such as checking your phone or other devices while listening to someone.

Approach conversations with a sense of curiosity, eager to learn from the other person’s perspective.

Be mindful and present in the moment, focusing on the conversation without thinking about what you’ll say next.

Mastering the art of listening can lead to more meaningful interactions, enhanced understanding, and stronger connections with others – particularly clients. It is an essential skill in building successful relationships, resolving conflicts, and fostering effective communication in various aspects of life.

Give it a try. You’ll be amazed at the positive results.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

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