Just about every issue that crops up in business boils down to communication. Lack of communication, miscommunication and over-communication are all at the heart of any challenge that arises. So if that is the issue, why in the hell don’t we work harder on communicating?

If you want a competitive advantage in this world, listen. Nobody does it anymore. We have our heads buried in our devices, and tweet and snapchat habitually. It really is an epidemic. I see it in my kids when they take a picture of themselves, say nothing and snapchat it to their friends. In fact, they actually have “streaks” associated with who they snapchat, but they don’t actually carry on any kind of discussion. It is as if they are communicating just to say they are communicating.

Our squirrel-like attention span and need to keep our streaks, likes or followers high, highlights the lack of real listening happening in this world. We have lost empathy, and perhaps our manners. When we mass text people or communicate in group chats, we don’t connect individually. What’s worse is that there seems to be a great deal of posing going on when we interact in a group. Time has proven that one-on-one interaction brings out the truth. In a group, the pressure to perform, be cool, or simply fit in forces us to act without much care for anyone else.

Oddly, with all the technology we have, I have found people actually listen even less. The fact that technology drives self-promotion, a lack of manners and general self-centeredness, I still subscribe to the fact that looking out for others is soul-enriching. Taking the focus off ourselves and listening with care will never go out of style. And for what it is worth, listening is just the right thing to do.

The funny thing about sincere listening is that the side effects are what we all really wanted in the first place. People will like you more. You will actually gain insight, learn and grow a little. And because you actively put the focus on others, you will feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.

It seems we are so damn busy these days and that there is so much noise that people don’t have time to listen. We are so addicted to the dopamine of our devices that nobody seems interesting enough to hold our attention. It is troublesome at best, but we need to pick our heads up and listen.

So, if you are looking for a way to differentiate yourself, be a better listener. It is not easy so we don’t do it. But you will find that people and businesses are longing for someone to take the time to hear and understand their needs. Fill this void for your customers and watch your business and life take off. Listening is an inexpensive, effective way of making yourself stand out to consumers.

And while I have always touted the remarkable non-measured value of publishing as the purest form of listening in business, the ROI for listening is huge. The most satisfying part is that it is free. Customer service doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive and sometimes what’s really needed is genuine attention. Listening is a mindset and something that must be embedded in your business DNA.

Utilizing the content creation process is critical for your business. Listening is at the core of that process and shows a great sign of respect for the community you serve. In turn, we know that the most successful leaders listen more than they talk. And when we listen to others, they tend to feel safe. When they feel like you are a safe bet, they start to trust you. And when they trust, well, you get the idea. Just listen.

Mark Potter

Mark Potter

CEO, Conduit, Inc.

Mark Potter is the CEO of Conduit Inc, a content marketing organization, which produces a variety of publications and community building programs including CANVAS Magazine. In addition, Mark is the author of the book, Egrets, Hockey Sticks, & Roller Skates and sits on the Electronic Document Scholarship Board.