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What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?

An old business friend told me the other day that the thing he most remembers me saying was, “What problem are we trying to solve?” As he put it, “That little phrase is the key to unfreezing more off-course conversations than any other technique I know of.”

I can’t claim invention. I got it from the United Research side of Gemini Consulting, one of several pieces of clever social engineering they brought to business. Here’s how, and why, it works.

How Business Conversations Go Astray

To hear us tell it after the fact, many business meetings follow a logical flow. They start with an agenda or problem definition, data are then presented, discussions held, and conclusions reached.  Then pigs fly.

It’s not that those individual elements don’t happen – they do. It’s that they happen like a Tower of Babel, randomly and all at once. When everybody’s got an opinion and a vested interest, and nobody’s a designated facilitator – a description of most meetings – we shouldn’t expect much else.

Have you ever been in a planning board meeting?  A condo association meeting? A meeting within your firm’s HR department? An inter-departmental meeting? A sales call with an interested but wary client?

Then you’ve seen the following dysfunctions:

  1. People pursuing their own agendas as sub-text to a given issue
  2. Aimless wandering around various problem definitions
  3. Randomly proposed solutions without grounding
  4. A social struggle for air time
  5. An airing of pet peeves as they manifest in the given issue
  6. A game of dominance and submission playing out in an issue.

And I’m sure there are more. All are forms of incoherence, lacking sequence or structure, generating more frustration from which to feed more incoherence.

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

If the root issue is incoherence, then there are several ways to tackle it. You can agree on an agenda. You can enforce sequencing. You can apportion air time.

But one way seems to work better than others. When the babble begins to peak, and the frustration level is palpable, raise your hand, furrow your brow, and ask, genuinely, “Hey folks – what problem are we trying to solve?”

Notice what this simple formulation does.

First, it is socially neutral-to-positive. Logically it has the same effect as saying, “You fools are all over the map – you can’t even define the problem” – but the emotional effect is totally different. You’re not claiming the moral high ground or fighting for your point of view – you’re simply observing a phenomenon, and asking a question.

Second, it’s a very good question. Asking a group to gut-check a problem definition almost immediately elicits an answer – and often it’s the same answer. In which case, collaboration is restored – you all have a common mission again.

And if it’s a different answer, voila, you’ve distilled the essence of the debate – “we have two competing problem definitions, no wonder we were having such difficulties!” In either case, the group becomes re-centered around a dynamic goal – problem definition and resolution, rather than bitching and moaning, or power games.

The net effect of all this is claiming, centering, and norming. A group becomes a group again, with common goals, moving forward, rather than a fractious collection of squabblers.

Give it a try next time you’re in a meeting that’s driving you a little batty – just ask, “Hey folks – what problem are we trying to solve?”

 

The Art of Listening: Establishing Trust without Saying a Thing

Buyer Psychology

Ask a client what they want, and they’ll tell you “expertise; credentials; someone who’ll meet my needs.” Ask them what their needs are, and they’ll tell you.

But ask really successful salespeople (or honest clients with experience in buying), and they’ll tell you how it really works. Clients only ask for credentials and expertise because they’re not really sure what else to do. In truth, they’d rather get in range with expertise, and then decide based on their trust in the seller.

Clients will tell you their needs because they think they’re supposed to, and because they’re afraid if they don’t, you’ll take advantage of them. But if you can engage them in honest discussion, they’ll admit their uncertainties and discuss, engage in, and evolve their views of what their needs are.

It all depends on why you’re listening.

If you’re listening to hear an answer to a predetermined question, then you will hear the “canned” definitions of needs that clients have prepared for you. You’ll hear their request for credentials and expertise at face value, and not hear the undertone in the question, or in the bored way they listen to your answer.

Because what clients really want to talk about is what everyone wants to talk about: Themselves. When someone says, “Tell me about yourself,” they’re just being polite – whether it’s on a date, at a social event, or in a sales call. The right answer is not to tell them about your vast experience with other clients – it is to get them talking about themselves. And to listen as they do so.

The Quality Of Listening

The usual form of listening is conditioned by sales models looking for answers and by flawed views of buyer psychology focused on surface dialogue. What is required is a different quality of listening.

The main reason for listening to prospects is to allow the prospect to be heard. Really heard. As in, actually being paid attention to by another human being.

This kind of listening is listening for the sake of listening. Listening to understand, period. No strings attached. No links back to your product. No refined problem statements. Because that’s what people in relationships, at their best, really do. They listen because they want to know what the other person thinks about whatever the other person is interested in talking about.

This kind of listening validates other people. It connects us to them. It provides meaning. And, among other things, it sets the stage for sellers and buyers to interact – if that is the right thing to happen next.

Authors Bill Brooks and Tom Travesano, in You’re Working Too Hard To Make The Sale, note that people greatly prefer to buy what they need from those who understand what it is that they want.

Read that over again, carefully. People prefer to buy what they need (stuff they’re going to buy anyway), from those who understand them on the basis of what they want (things in life they’d love to have – wishes, hopes, desires).

You don’t even have to give them what they want; it’s enough to understand them.

To bring it full circle back to listening: Relationships are the context for successful selling. Relationships are based on trust; they predispose us to engage in qualitatively different kinds of sales conversations. And listening – unrestricted, unbounded, listening for its own sake – is the way we develop such relationships.

And therein lies the paradox. The most powerful way to sell depends on unlinking listening from selling – and instead, just listening. Listening not as a step in a sales process, and not as a search for answers to questions. Listening not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

The point of listening is not what you hear, but the act of listening itself.

Making It Work

Here are 5 tips to listening this way. Number five is the most powerful.

  1. Ditch the distractions. You cannot multitask undiscovered. Being multitasked feels insulting. Close the door. Face away from the window. Blank the computer screen. Turn the iPhone over. Now, pay attention.
  2. Use your whole body. Lean toward the speaker – even on the phone. Use facial expressions. Use hands and arms, shake your head, and use “non-verbal” verbalisms. This improves your listening – and indicates you are listening.
  3. Keep it about them – not you. Use open-ended, not closed, questions. Let them tell their own story – don’t use them as foils for your hypotheses.
  4. Acknowledge frequently. Paraphrase their data, empathize with their emotions. Make sure you are hearing both correctly; make sure they know you are.
  5. Think out loud. The biggest obstacle to listening is your own thinking. Be courageous – postpone your thinking until they’re done talking. Be willing to think out loud – with the client. Doing so role-models collaboration and transparency, and that reinforces trust. I hear you. I value you. I respond to you, with no hidden agenda. I trust you. You can trust me.

That’s the message of listening.

This article was first published on RainToday.com

Let Your Doing Do Your Talking: Five High Impact Tips

It seems only natural. We rehearse, over and over, what we say and how we say it. “Put the em-pha-sis on the right syl-la-ble.” “Po-ta-to, po-tah-to.” “Take my wife—[wait for it…] please.” And so on.

What you say and how you say it is indeed critical—especially if you’re a stand-up comic or a keynote speaker.

But when it comes to sales and client relationships—what drives impact is not your saying—it’s your doing. You sell by doing, not by telling.

Behaving Trumps Talking

How often have you heard:

– Actions speak louder than words

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say

People will judge you by your actions, not your intentions

-Walk the talk

-Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand

-You have two ears and one mouth for a reason

There is much wisdom in folk wisdom like this. We over-emphasize content, over-analyze our words. Worse–our actions can contradict our words. If part of your spiel is that you’re client-focused—in that moment, you’re not.

It’s your actions that will sell—or not.

Five Opportunities to Replace Talking with Actions

You can read elsewhere tips about your demeanor, look, body language. Here are five ways you can design your actions to help your customers experience what you’re about.

1. When you illustrate a point through an example–make the example about this client, not your other clients. Everyone’s favorite subject is—themselves. Indulge them.

2. Offer free samples. It works with ice cream, but ice cream has color, taste, texture. Tax advice doesn’t. It becomes tangible only when the client gets some. Give some samples.

3. Work side by side with your customer. Don’t waste time back at your office pondering what your customer might want—ask them.

4. Put potential clients in touch with past clients–let them talk directly. They each learn a lot, and you get the credit for the introduction.

5. Ask for advice, not feedback. You can replace a hundred customer-sat written surveys with one serious, face-to-face meeting asking your customer to help you redesign your processes.

And one final bonus tip: Don’t say ‘trust me.’ Let your trustworthy actions do your talking for you.

 

The Godfather Chronicler: Gay Talese on Trust

Readers of this blog know that we often write about Intimacy in a business context. And two of the three elements which make up that invaluable quality are empathy and discretion: creating a cocoon of safety in which another person can talk to us.

I have never heard a more poetic description of this than the one from Gay Talese in “A Writer’s Life”:

“I learned [from my mother] … to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments … people are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them…

I have also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.”

Lovely words: “…to listen with patience and care.” If we can do even this simple yet powerful thing in all of our business conversations, we’ve accomplished something nearly miraculous.

We’ve shown respect and empathy.

We’ve allowed another person to reveal something troublesome or difficult or embarrassing, and gently received their secrets.

And we’ve taken steps to becoming, like Talese’s mother, “a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.”

Listening is indeed a gift, not a tactic, and let us give this gift with patience and care.

How to Convince Your Boss You’re Right

Your boss gives you an important job to do. You are good for the job, you know what you’re doing, and you’re clear about the right answer. And then–your boss won’t go along with it. 

Worse, you’re really qualified to make this judgment call. And your boss’s logic is goofy. His/Her reason boils down to ‘we’ve always done it that way,’ or ‘just do it by the book,’ or maybe just personal preference. Your boss won’t listen, just digs in his/her heels.   

And it’s getting really irritating.

What can you do to convince your boss you’re right?

Surprise surprise, there is no guarantee.   But you can dramatically improve the odds. Here’s how.

Convincing Starts with Right Thinking

You start by getting really clear on two ideas—in your own head.

Idea 1. You are not the boss of your boss.   Your boss is the boss of you. So if it ever really comes down solely to who’s got the power, you can hang it up. 

Deal with that.

Idea 2. You will rarely convince anyone—particularly your boss—that you are right, as long as that equates to convincing them that they are wrong. If “I’m right” rhymes with “you’re wrong,” you can also hang it up.

Are we clear? 

If so, then you’ve figured out that “How do I convince my boss that I’m right?” is entirely, 100%, the wrong question. Really—completely wrong. If you got sucked in by the title of this blog, then you have to do some re-defining of your objectives—right now.

Think about it. If your objective involves “I’m right” then you’ve got an ego problem. I mean, why is this all about you? If you’re a serious team member, shouldn’t the question be “what’s the right answer” rather than “who’s got the right answer?”

And if your objective involves “convincing someone else” then you’ve got a control problem. I mean, why should you assume the issue is one of changing someone else to think like you, rather than of creating new joint collaborative thinking?

Redefine “Convincing Your Boss”

Imagine—even though it’s extremely unlikely—that, just for the sake of argument—your answer isn’t fully perfect. And imagine, though equally unlikely, that you actually could convince your boss of the correctness of your flawed recommendation. That would not be the optimal ending, would it?

That’s one small reason for you to engage in a dialogue, rather than a wrestling match. But here’s a much bigger reason.

The Paradox of Influence

It turns out, one of the best ways to convince someone is to listen to them first. That’s the gist of what a world expert on influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini, has to tell us. If you listen to someone first, the tendency of humans is usually to reciprocate—which means, to then listen to you.

But this reciprocal listening must have a genuine quality about it. It can’t be just, ‘OK I’ll let you blab for a while as the price for letting me give my pitch, so let me just grit my teeth, OK off you go…”

It actually has to be a genuine act of respect. It has to come from true curiosity, not from a kit-bag of carefully pre-designed questions. You actually have to, for lack of a better word, care.

To Convince Your Boss, First Give Up on Convincing Your Boss

If you want to increase the odds of convincing your boss, first—give it up. Completely. Give up on the objective of ‘convincing your boss.’

In its place, commit yourself to an attitude of curiosity. Go ask your boss:

Boss, I know we’ve been cross-wise on this one. And you know what, I have to admit, I could, of course, be wrong. And if so, I probably don’t even understand how I’m wrong. So please, do me a favor. 

I would really appreciate it if you’d tell me all about how you see this issue—from start to finish. I want to completely understand how you come at it, and how you came to see it that way. I am truly curious, and want to know.

And that’s it. If all we do here today is help me learn from you how to think about this, it will have been a great day. Period.

Then listen. And plan to say ‘thanks,’ and walk away. 

Yes, walk away. 

Because if your boss has any interest in discussing your point of view, (s)he will ask you about it at this point. And if they don’t have any interest, go see Ideas 1 and 2 at the outset of this article, the part where it says they’re your boss, not vice versa.

Here’s the paradox. Assuming your idea really was pretty good, going through this process will considerably increase the odds of it being accepted by your boss. But only—only—if you are willing to completely give up your objective of bending another person’s will to the force of yours.

If you’re willing to give it up, you’ll increase the odds of getting it to happen.  The secret is: It’s not about you.

Why Nobody Cares About You, And You Should Be Glad They Don’t







Nobody cares about you. I don’t mean your parents, of course they do. And of course your dog. And your significant other, if you have one. Maybe even your kids or your siblings, though there’s no guarantee.   And maybe a great friend or two. 

No, I’m talking about all the rest. Your work team, your customers, your suppliers, your neighbors, your kids’ teachers, the gang at the gym and at church. The people you spend 85% of your time with, who make up 90% of the entries in your contacts database and 95% of the people in your LinkedIn catalog. 99% of your Facebook and Twitter friends. They don’t really care about you. None of them. Not really.

Basically, the vast majority of human interactions we have are with people who don’t really care about us.

And that, my ‘friends,’ is a wonderful thing. Here’s why.

My Life has Been Very Eventful: Some of It Actually Happened.

For me, almost all the stomach-churning fear and angst I have experienced in my life consisted of fictional plots hatched in the dark places in my own mind. They nearly always featured those 90%-plus people in my life. A huge chunk of my life’s emotional energy was spent on winning fictional arguments and fights with them—though now, finally, I spend a lot less time on that.

If only I could have realized more fully, earlier on in my life, the One Big Truth, how much more productive I could have been! And what is the One Big Truth?

They don’t really give a damn. Any more than I do about them. Oh sure I like interacting with them, most of them, most of the time. And I actually don’t think badly about hardly any of them—they mean well, mostly. It’s just that, I’ve got my own issues to worry about, and I honestly don’t spend that much time focusing on them.

And, surprise surprise, they spend about as much time focused on me as I do focused on them. Which is not a lot. And they probably don’t think any more badly about me than I think badly about them, which is not much. The main thing is: I just think about myself more than I do about them. And they do the same.

The Freedom That Lies in Realizing No One Really Cares

Again, I don’t mean we’re all selfish, mean-spirited people. But I do mean that we’re all pretty much wrapped up in ourselves. And that turns out to be an enormous, high-potential gift.

Because: imagine doubling the quality of attention you show to other people. Not even the quantity—just the quality.   No more time—just more connection.   What if you could really connect with your customer. Just for two minutes. For two minutes, to engage in a way that is not dominated by your desire to close the deal, to advance the sale, to get them to like you.

What if, for two minutes, you could actually care about them? About how they are feeling, about why they’re thinking what they’re thinking, about how it must feel to be them in that moment. 

What if you could offer the fine gift of your attention? 

What would happen if someone gave a damn about you for just two minutes? How would it feel? 

Pretty good, I think. And what does it cost? Pretty much nothing.

You Can Radically Improve Lives in Two Minutes a Day

Any time you want, you can stop the noise, get off the Bozo Bus, and reach out and touch someone. All it takes is the gift of your attention.

It seems to me that the reason we don’t give the gift of attention is that we are trapped in the fictional belief that we must gain the approval of others. Thus we are afraid of what they think of us.

The truth is: they can’t think good or ill of us if they’re not even thinking of us at all. Which means we are free—gloriously free—to share our attention. No one else is claiming it.

And if you give it away, you’ll get something back. It’s a universal truth.

Declare the obvious—your own freedom from the myth of others’ judgment. Then go use that freedom to fix your little corner of the world. You might even find that someone cares just a little bit about you.

 

Lessons in Strategic Communications from an Admiral

You may have missed it. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave a clinic in communications, public relations and sales. It was in late August–perhaps that’s why you didn’t hear of it.

Of course, it was also cleverly disguised as a critique of the US government’s communications policy with respect to the Muslim world. But no matter, it was a clinic nonetheless. Here is Adm. Mike Mullen:

"To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate…

…most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all," he wrote. "They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are."

What constitutes good communication? According to Adm. Mullen:

"…having the right intent up front and letting our actions speak for themselves. We shouldn’t care if people don’t like us. That isn’t the goal. The goal is credibility. And we earn that over time.

[our messages] lack credibility, because we haven’t invested enough in building trust and relationships, and we haven’t always delivered on promises."

Clearly Mullen is confusing his skillset with that of a communications expert. What else does he think good communication requires?

"It’s not about telling our story," he stated. "We must also be better listeners."

You may think Mullen is out of his league. Then again, if you are reading this blog, you probably recognize his wisdom. But let’s pile on some more anyway.

Communication is a Two Way Street

The heart of influence lies not in our fancy powerpoints or elegantly crafted talking points. Ironically, paradoxically, it lies in listening before we talk.

Thomas Friedman articulated this well in his commencement address at Williams College a few years ago:

The most important part of listening is that is is a sign of respect. It’s not just what you hear by listening that is important. It is what you say by listening that is important…

Never underestimate how much people just want to feel that they have been heard, and once you have given them that chance they will hear you.

The Psychology of Communication

Communication is a dance, not a diktat. The establishment of trust requires communication, in an ascending exchange of reciprocal acts of listening.

Being right is an overrated virtue. In fact, being right too soon has the effect of pissing people off. There is a time for every season, including stating opinions. And that time is after you have listened.

Not all truisms are true, but this one is:

–People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.

That simple little sentence, phrased in an intentionally corny manner so as to increase the odds of remembering it, is very sound psychology.

Communications, influence and trust have a few very simple rules: one is, first you listen.

  • Shrinks know this.
  • Good salespeople know this.
  • Good diplomats know this.

Apparently, so do Admirals.

Thanks for the clinic, Admiral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Empathy Famine

I spent the weekend in California. It started as a mini-vacation—joining a friend’s 50th birthday celebration. It ended with most of the time in my hotel room with the flu.

At first, my demeanor was positive (why compound physical misery with a bad attitude) but steadily declined as I negotiated all the logistical changes required to extend my stay until I could haul my ailing self back across the country. 

Of all the service providers with whom I interacted (hotel desk clerks, cleaning ladies, airport rental car attendant), not one acknowledged my matter-of-fact revelation that I was asking for help because I was sick and couldn’t go home.

Why Is Empathy So Hard to Find?

Now, I wasn’t looking for sympathy from these folk (well, maybe a tad).  It just would have been nice if, when they learned of my situation, they had given some hint that they had actually heard what I said.  "Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” would have completely sufficed. Or “Oh dear!” Even “Bummer, dude.” 

But no.  Nothin’.  Nada. When I finally emerged from my room, the cleaning lady had an attitude – the Do Not Disturb sign that hung on the door for 48 hours straight had kept her from doing her job.

The Alamo car check-in guy dutifully read – word-for-word – the statement on the back of my agreement justifying the additional $10.99 late return charge.  Waiving the $10 might have made me a customer for life.   Just saying, “I’m so sorry that my job requires me to tack on this extra fee under the circumstances” might have led me to consider  renting from Alamo again.

These are not unhappy or unfriendly people. Hey, it’s California. They get a lot of sun. And it’s not like they were in roles not requiring interpersonal skills — I’ll give the hotel housekeeper a pass, but the rest were front-line customer service types.  And honestly, I wasn’t being a cranky-whiny-pain-in-the-you-know-what sick person – I promise.

I’m not sure what the problem was.  Perhaps they weren’t really listening. Or they just didn’t know what to say.

Empathy Isn’t Really All That Difficult

The thing is, empathy isn’t that hard. It comes in many forms: “I’m terribly sorry,” or “I’m sure that wasn’t how you wanted to spend your weekend here!”  or even “That sucks!” (sorry, Mom, I know you hate that word).

Just acknowledge — rather than avoid — the emotional reality of the human being on the other end of the phone/service counter/board room table.
Are you uncomfortable in this touchy-feely zone? That’s perfectly normal.  But it’s also a bad excuse for doing nothing. Awkward empathy beats no empathy any day of the week.

In our Trusted Advisor and Trust-Based Selling  programs we spend a lot of time practicing empathy. Put in the terms of the Trust Equation, empathy creates intimacy and intimacy builds trust.

Empathy is imperative in professional services; listening is what drives influence.  Just asking good questions is not enough to be a good listener.

Having your client get that you got him — emotionally as well as cognitively — is what earns you the Top Listener award, which in turn earns you the right to be heard.

Next time you ask your client how her weekend was, and she mutters “Not quite what I expected,” try putting the meeting agenda aside just long enough to say, “I’m sorry to hear that” or – context-permitting – “Bummer, dude.”

And if your client ever reveals something that leaves you feeling itchy and unsure what to say, say that (“Oh … I’m not sure what to say”). Any attempt will do.
 

What’s Trust Got to Do With Respect?

On the one hand, the connection between trust and respect seems clear. As Thomas Friedman put it:

I’m often asked how I, an American Jew, have been able to operate so successfully in the Arab world. My answer is simple: it is to be a good listener. It has never failed me. Listening is a sign of respect. If you truly listen to the other person, they will then listen to what you have to say.

Aretha Franklin just spelled it out.

Behaving respectfully toward others is likely to increase your trustworthiness in others’ eyes, and to make them more likely to trust you.

But should it work the other way? What if someone is disrespectful to us? Should we then behave in a less trustworthy way toward them? Should we trust them less?

There’s an equally venerable point of view that says get over it, sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me, someone can hurt you emotionally only with your permission, hear other people but do not allow your emotions to be held hostage by theirs.

Of course, sometimes name-calling is a prelude to violence; disrespect can signal untrustworthiness. Only a fool doesn’t look for a nearby exit door in such situations.

But we over-rate how often that is true.

This territory of trust, listening and respect is rife with opportunities for self-improvement. Strive to respect others—not in the ways you would be respected, but in ways the other person would consider as being respected. Which means listening, very attentively.

But when disrespected, strive to rise above it. Return respect for disrespect, by listening for motives and for understanding.

Does this mean holding ourselves to a higher standard than others? And is that disrespectful in itself?

I’d like to think not. On some absolute scale, all of us are awful at this. When you behave disrespectfully, notice it and resolve to do better in future. When someone is disrespectful towards you, notice how much like them you are, and resolve to overlook it on the spot.

Listening for Litigators

Jean is an experienced attorney in California—doing mainly litigation.  She told me how she practices listening while taking depositions.

Jean: The main thing I do is I’m genuinely curious about what the defendant thinks.  I’m just curious.

Me: Don’t you have to find weaknesses in their stories?

Jean: That’s an outcome, not an objective.  I’m not looking for “gotchas” as an end in itself.  If I can understand their full story from their perspective, then I can understand where their case is weak, and where it’s strong.  Then in court I have no danger of taking things out of context—I know their context.

Me: Do people share things with you that are surprising?

Jean: Astonishing.  Sometimes their own counsel will elbow them to say, ‘shut up, that’s enough,’ and they’ll push back ‘no, I want to tell my story.’  People just want to be understood. 

Me: Don’t they know you’re hostile?

Jean: They know. But I think the desire to communicate overcomes that.  And, I suspect, if they feel heard and understood, then perhaps they’ll be more accepting of the court’s outcome—they’ve had their ‘day in court,’ and I play a role in that.

Me: Does this work for you?

Jean: Hugely.  The younger lawyers acknowledge me as being pretty effective.  They want to know how I do it.  I tell them, but they don’t get it.

Me: How’s that?

Jean: I have no secrets; I tell them the trick is to be a good listener, which means being curious about what makes the other person tick.  But they don’t seem to be able to get it.

I think in part it’s because they simply do not know how to listen, at all.  Hence they can’t hear me when I try to explain how to listen.  If you can’t listen, you can’t hear someone explain it.  Maybe they think it can’t be so easy.

Maybe it’s because they can’t get out of the adversarial mode.  Maybe that comes with maturity.  You don’t have to fight all the time to win cases.  Sometimes you just go with the flow, and you end up winning because of it.  They can’t seem to grasp that simple Aikido-like principle, use the energy presented to you to find the right answer.  And if you’re right, you win.  And if you didn’t win, well maybe you were wrong.

I was very taken by Jean’s description.  Isn’t this how the law, and lawyers, should function?  With genuine curiosity about the litigants’ respective positions? 

Is being an advocate necessarily at odds with forming relationships?  I’d like to think not, and that Jean is one of those who seems to understand just how to do it.