Author: Brani Andreev, MBA, is an expert in nationwide management of process service, consultant, speaker, and developer of the breakthrough Management Model of the 4Ps™ that ensures the consistent quality of process service.
Do you know that most people who think they are good listeners underperform? By as much as 60 percent? In fact, it turns out that overconfidence actually impedes your success whether you are interacting with your clients, other process servers or the people you are trying to serve. Being too confident actually prevents you from truly understanding what motivates the other side. This, in turn, stops you from being able to use Actionable Empathy™ to get the outcomes you are looking for as a process server or even in your personal relationships.
Truth be told, nothing puts a relationship in jeopardy faster than poor listening skills. It does not matter whether you are talking to another process server, your client, a defendant in a case or your family. People simply do not take a long time to estimate your commitment to listening, particularly since a good deal of communication is nonverbal and wrapped up in physical syntax and delivery. Suffice it to say it is not easy to convince someone you are actually listening when in fact you are not.
So why do most people who think they are good listeners underperform? It is because most do not have the communication skills to recognize that there are actually five levels to listening. Experience shows that if you recognize and master better listening skills, you are more likely to:
Let's explore the five levels of listening and see how they help you get more clients for your process service business, grow it, and find that defendant who is avoiding service:
Level 1: Listening for the Substance:
The first level of listening is intermittent listening. What it means is that you are simply listening long enough to get the substance or essence or the main point of what the other side is saying. When you are talking to a new client who just called you and wants legal documents delivered, and you think you have got the basic idea, your ears shut off and refocus on your internal voice, which is formulating a reaction based on your worldview. Though you might not even recognize that you have shut the other side off and actually articulate this reaction, you are engaged in an internal dialogue about how what is being said does not line up with your logic. While "talking to yourself" at the same time when your new client is giving you more information about the process service he needs done, you have just missed out on some very important instructions on how the client expects you to serve the defendant.
Level 2: Listening to Rebut:
During this next level of listening, you are still not practicing active listening. In fact, you are listening to rebut. This is the stage at which you listen long enough to understand the incoming message until it hits the trigger (i.e., something in the statement or phrase that you can argue against or rebut). Imagine you are talking to another process server from another state who has just sent you a service, and he is trying to explain to you why he needs the respondent personally only served. You interrupt him and are eager to tell him why you feel he is wrong. When you hear a trigger, you just wait for the other side to shut up for long enough so you can tell them why their position is faulty and, by extension, how much smarter you are than they are. These enthusiastic replies undermine communication and the entire relationship. Interjecting with a quick response is a clear indication that you are not listening. How could you be? At this level, you are actually focusing on your agenda at the expense of theirs, and it is, for the most part, obvious to the other side.
Level 3: Listening for Logic:
The third level of listening involves using inference to try to pin down the internal logic of what is being said, if such logic exists. If this is the other side’s point of view, their conclusion, or their judgment, why does it make sense to them? It is the first step toward truly understanding whom you are actually speaking with. During this level of listening you are paying more attention to what the person who just answered the door is attempting to tell you. Is she trying to say that her spouse is not at home right now while impatiently holding a baby in her hands? Is she ready to move inside and close the door on you before you have asked her when he might be home so that you can deliver the legal documents to him and successfully complete the process service?
Level 4: Listening for Emotion:
At the fourth level of listening, you are listening for any emotions or issues that may be driving their argument. You are standing at the door of that yellow house for a third time this week, and you are hoping to finally find the person you are looking for to deliver the service of process. You feel lucky this time, lights are all on inside the house and you hear people talking inside, a small child crying loud. These emotions or issues may or may not make sense to you. But at this level, you recognize their significance as the other side may be in a stressful situation if the small child needs their attention. The door suddenly opens and you find a very angry man staring at you. When it is your turn to speak, you might decide to use Labels (See https://www.theprocessservercenter.com/serve-like-fbi-agent.html) to identify the unstated emotions or issues you believe are influencing what they have to say. Here is another situation, this one involving a very satisfied client who gives you an energetic compliment about that successful process service you have just done, you might say something like this: "It seems like you’re very pleased with the outcome of your service of process ...", in hopes that the other side will reveal additional information and perhaps agree to give you a written review on your Google listing of your process service business.
Level 5: Listening for Their Point of View:
At this level of listening you become a great listener. It is truly this level where you listen for what the other side’s argument says about who they are in the world, using Actionable Empathy™ to do everything you can to see things from their perspective. This communication skill is how you filter the other person’s emotion and logic through a prism of empathy. It is what you should try to do every time you interact with others, regardless whether it is another process server, a defendant you are trying to find or your client. During this stage of listening it is all about getting beyond the cursory level of understanding to a deeper appreciation of their point of view. If you do not understand where the other person is coming from, you do not really understand them at all, making it that much less likely you will get that new client you are hoping for. If you do not understand the other side, you will never influence them. It’s that simple! Though it is difficult to maintain this level of listening every waking moment of every day, you need to be ready and willing to get here when the situation warrants it. The better your listening skills, the more likely it is that you land this new client with volume process service you have always wanted.