December 12, 2013

How’s Your Listening Face?

Oddly enough (or perhaps—once you read this—not so much) one of the things I talk about quite a bit with clients is their “Listening Face.”

“What is a Listening Face?” you might be wondering. Or, more importantly, “What is it that you want my Listening Face to look like?”

Let me tell you a story:

One day I was working with a client who, as I spoke, narrowed his eyes, furrowed his brows, jutted his chin forward, gripped the lower half of his face with his hand….After we’d spent some time getting to know each other I said, “Can you tell me what’s going on with your face? You look like you’re in pain” And he said, “Oh, this is my Listening Face. I do it to let people know I’m paying attention.”

Um….no.

While I was, indeed, happy that he had given his Listening Face some thought, the choices he had made were….disquieting. And the result of that was that my focus was split between what I was trying to accomplish and trying to figure out what was up with him.

Can some of you relate? Do you have people in your lives with poor listening faces? For example, do you know people whose faces go completely blank while they are listening? If so, and they are your superior, you’re likely to think they don’t like you. If they are your direct report, you are likely to think they don’t understand what you’re saying. If they are (heaven forbid) in sales/the healing arts/customer service they are likely to be getting some negative feedback.

So, how can you tell if you have a good Listening Face? I’d begin to ask around—to check in with people you trust to be frank with you. Speaking from my own experience, I discovered that many people found my ‘non-work’ face somewhat…. expression-free. Armed with that feedback I began making a conscious effort to keep my eyes and face engaged while clients were speaking with me, which went a long way toward building both their trust and their confidence.

Outside of professional poker, why is being conscious of your Listening Face so important? Because from the time we are babies we are wired to watch our parents’ faces for approval. This doesn’t change as we grow older– when we meet someone whose face is hostile, blank, or abstracted we lose focus, we start to second-guess ourselves, we turn off or tune out.

So be sure you are putting your best face forward.

* If you haven’t yet, there’s still time to vote! Here’s the link!http://speaking.com/top5/ Click on “communication” and—if you’re so inclined—vote for me!

Frances Cole Jones

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