How to Work With a Bad Listener

We communicate using a diverse range of methods every day to share our ideas, thoughts, emotions, and opinions.

Communication is important because it is how we interact with others and it is a big part of who we are. However, it can be complex and there is always the risk of misunderstanding each other. Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Make Friends and Influence People, said that ninety percent of management problems are caused by communication issues.

Miscommunication in customer service can lead to frustration for customers, reputational damage, and reduced profits.

What Is Miscommunication

The Oxford dictionary gives us a succinct definition of miscommunication:

If you don’t communicate well, you’ll have trouble understanding others and conveying your own ideas.

This definition of miscommunication demonstrates that it is the result of both the speaker and the listener. This highlights how difficult it can be for customer service representatives to communicate effectively.

It is challenging for customer service professionals to communicate effectively today because they need to master many different communication methods. They need to be able to share a consistent message across telephone conversations, IM applications, email, and more.

There are numerous causes of miscommunication, some of which are not malicious or harmful. However, the effects of miscommunication can be severe.

What Causes Miscommunication?

If there is a miscommunication it can ruin customer service, cause the customer to be unsatisfied, and damage the company’s reputation. This can also lead to costly errors.

It is important to understand what causes communication problems in customer service in order to fix them.

Rushed Communication

Many businesses allocate their customer service team’s resources inefficiently by expecting them to cover too much ground. This often leads to overworked team members who cannot keep up with the demands placed on them. As a result, customer service suffers.

When communication is rushed, mistakes are made. Customer service agents will inevitably begin to pay less attention to detail, listen passively, and become overwhelmed by a lot of activity.

A Failure to Use Active Listening

Active listening is the process of fully concentrating on what a person says. Active listeners are completely engaged and they give their conversation partners the attention they deserve. This skill is essential for great customer service.

The average person hears between 20,000 and 30,000 words a day, but customer service professionals hear significantly more. This can make it challenging for them to engage in active listening!

If customer service professionals don’t have the right training, they might start tuning out because they’re overwhelmed by all the information and words they have to process.

Hasty Assumptions 

We’re all familiar with what it’s like to listen to others. It’s only natural that we might have a strong internal dialogue that makes assumptions and predictions about the conversation.

Customer service professionals shouldn’t allow their internal dialogue to affect their ability to communicate properly.

A Clash of Communication Styles

Did you know there are four main communication styles? Everybody naturally falls into one broad group, though they can occasionally switch between them in the right situation.

Two people with different communication styles might have difficulty understanding each other. For example, someone who is very social may not understand someone who is more analytical.

A Lack of Leadership

Poor internal leadership among customer service representatives can lead to inconsistency and confusion in messaging.

If customer service professionals are not clear with their messaging, it could cause customers to receive conflicting information. This could lead to customer dissatisfaction and promte them to leave for another company.

How to Work with a Bad Listener

Working with people who don’t listen can be difficult and frustrating. Whether they interrupt you, ramble on, seem distracted, or always want to talk, it can make you feel like you’re not being heard. This can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. There are some things you can do to try to encourage better listening from your colleagues, like talking to them about their poor listening skills. But you have to be careful about how you deliver the message.

What the Experts Say

“It’s both hard and frustrating to deal with colleagues who don’t listen,” says Sabina Nawaz, a global CEO and executive coach. “When someone is not fully present, it erodes the quality of what you say.” The experience might, for instance, “cause you to lose your train of thought” or “suppress what you originally planned to communicate.” It’s also possible that “you could get derailed into the drama of why it’s happening,” she adds. “You might take it personally and think, ‘My colleague is so arrogant.'” Potential problems aren’t limited to “misunderstandings and hard feelings,” according to Christine Riordan, the president of Adelphi University and a leadership coach.If you find yourself regularly trying to talk to colleagues who never seem to be listening, here are some strategies that may help.

Consider Work Styles

-Some of your colleagues may be more visual people who have difficulty processing oral instructions and prefer to receive information in writing. -Try to be a understanding conversation partner and use your colleague’s time efficiently.

Reflect on Your Behavior

If you work with someone who is a bad listener, it can make you question whether you are a good listener yourself, according to Riordan. Nawaz says that it is a good idea to reflect on how you approach professional conversations and what you could do to improve. She suggests that you take the time to “get some data on your communication style” so that you can model the behavior you want to see.

Demonstrate Empathetic Listening

According to Riordan, one method of getting your coworkers to listen more attentively is to use “empathetic listening.” This involves attempting to see the situation from the speaker’s perspective. Nawaz suggests taking notes while your coworker is speaking, which will help you to validate their main points and contribute your own thoughts to the conversation. The end goal is to think about your audience and how the conversation will benefit them.

Highlight the Magnitude of Your Message

According to Riordan, it is important to be clear about your message from the beginning. She suggests saying something like, “I have something really important to talk to you about, and I need your help.” This will let your colleagues know that they need to pay attention. Riordan also recommends repeating your point multiple times and in multiple ways. You should also follow up with questions to make sure that your message has been understood.

Create Accountability

According to Nawaz, it is also important to hold your colleague responsible for listening. When talking to a distracted boss, for example, she suggests letting your manager know that there is a specific goal that needs to be met by the end of the conversation. You might say something like, “I have three possible strategies that I want to tell you about. In the end, I’m looking for you to decide on one of them.” It is important to be clear about your priorities, Riordan says. If you are dealing with a coworker who tends to forget certain conversations, you should set timelines to anchor your expectations in your colleague’s mind. For example, you might say, “That [task] is critical for this project. Do you have a date when it will be finished?”

Show Concern

Either way, at least you called attention to the bad behavior in a way that didn’t put the other person on the defensive. Calling attention to a colleague’s bad behavior can be difficult, but Nawaz says it can be done if approached from a position of empathy and compassion. For example, you might say something like, “I noticed you seem to be distracted. Is there anything I can do to help you focus?” Your offer of help should be genuine, or it may come across as passive-aggressive. Additionally, be tolerant of distractions in the office. If your colleague’s phone keeps going off, stop talking and ask if they need to check it. This way, you’re calling attention to the bad behavior without putting the other person on the defensive.

Address the Problem Directly

If you suspect that someone you work closely with is the culprit, it may be best to address the issue head-on. Tell them that they’re not hearing what people have to say, and cite an example of when this lack of listening had negative consequences for the team. However, be warned that this conversation will only be effective if you have a positive relationship with the person; otherwise, they could become defensive.

Propose a Social Contract

If you’re having trouble getting your teammates to listen to you, one option is to try instituting a “social contract.” This is a document that outlines how team members are expected to interact with each other. By making it a team-level agreement, you can avoid singling out any one person. The contract should stipulate that colleagues take turns talking and that everybody has a chance to share an opinion. These contracts work best in workplaces that have a relatively strong, supportive culture to begin with. If upper management isn’t on board, it’s likely that the contract won’t work. If your team falls into this category, you may want to focus on improving your interactions on an individual level.

The Heavy Impact of Miscommunication

Great customer service is based on communication that flows smoothly. Therefore, it is not surprising that poor communication can ruin your entire customer service operation.

Here’s a closer look at what’s at stake:

Dissatisfied Customers

Miscommunication can reduce the effectiveness of customer service and extend the length of a customer service interaction. This issue becomes more significant when you take the following numbers from Statista into account:

If you’ve ever had a bad customer service experience, you know how frustrating it can be. Miscommunication can be baffling and make it difficult to resolve the problem.

If you fail to deliver good customer service, you will damage your reputation.

Higher Churn Rates

When a customer leaves for a competitor, it’s a terrible feeling. A high churn rate can damage your reputation, reduce your potential customer base, and cost you the ability to upsell new products and services.

One-third of respondents to an American Express survey said that they would consider switching companies after just one instance of bad customer service, which is responsible for lots of churns.

Stressed, Demotivated, and Frustrated Employees

A report from The Economist on miscommunication showed that 44% of respondents said that it had caused a delay or failure in their ability to complete projects.

The report showed that poor communication can negatively impact employee morale and make workplaces more stressful. This, in turn, can lead to subpar customer service.


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