You Aren’t Learning Much When Your Lips Are Moving

October 27, 2010
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imageHow many times have you heard this mantra repeated … ?Begin every arrangement with ?Tell me about your father/sister/mother?, then lay down your pencil. After the sharing, ask … ?How do see your next few days unfolding and how can I help with that vision.??. We all have our own versions of the above, but it is an undisputed fact that we all trust someone who listens more than someone who just comes at us with armloads of information.

In days past the opposite was true. In 1950?s and early 60?s, the person sitting across from you expected the funeral director to do all the talking and any intrusion into their privacy was an invasion. Back then children were brought up with the oft repeated parental words ?Don?t speak unless spoken to? and, as adults arranging for a deceased parent, that was a safe option. That generation were called ?Traditionalists?. Things are different today.

The ?Traditionalist? generation gave way to the ?Baby Boomers?, followed by ?Gen X? and ?Gen Y?. (I encourage you to Google the typical thought processes and idiosyncrasies of these groups when planning to listen effectively in your arrangement office). Different generations have unique ways of listening.

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There was a day when listening was a lot different than ?hearing?. Today?s generation of customer won?t put up with insincerity. Simply put, listening has to be a thinking activity. If you sit in your office hearing without thinking, it may be that you are not listening at all and they are experts at identifying insincerity.

From personal experience we all know that it isn?t always easy to listen. If you want to benefit from the arrangement conference, it is up to you to take responsibility for improving the situation. If you are going to pick up your pen to write, ask permission. I often say ?Do you mind if I make a few notes … my memory is good, but short?.

By asking permission you further involve the family in the feeling that they are being well served. One very powerful way of learning to listen more effectively is to explore the ?Cornell Note-taking Style? or you may use a non-linear way of organizing your notes called Mind Maps (see Tony Buzan’s Use Your Head).

Whatever way is best for you, I encourage all new directors to hone those listening skills. Challenge yourself to see how long you can go before you pick up your pen. I can almost guarantee this: that length of time will be in direct correlation to the amount of money the family spend. If I trust someone, I feel good about rewarding their professional behavior. And always remember this – you aren’t learning much about the things the family really want when your lips are moving.

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