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Listen! Do You Want to Know a Secret?

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

– Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

So true. We’re all likely guilty. And it’s a habit that has a profound impact on how we engage with people who simply want to be heard.

Consider this scenario: two people are talking to you at the same time. For 60 seconds, Person A tells you about his day and Person B gives you directions on how to save a drowning child.

When the minute is up, you’re asked to recite what you remember.

Chances are you only remember bits and pieces of each person’s conversation. Would you feel confident in the steps needed to save a drowning child? Probably not. It’s valuable information that was lost on you as you juggled comprehending two dialogues at once.

This exercise illustrates what often happens when we’re in a conversation.

Person B represents the person with whom we’re talking; Person A represents that voice in our head that’s either pondering what to say next or thinking about what’s for dinner. That voice keeps us from truly hearing what’s important to the person across from us.

What’s the secret to effective communication? We must master the art of listening, particularly when it comes to engaging with today’s consumer who deserves balanced, credible information about food, where it comes from and who’s producing it.

We know from our research that communicating with shared values is three-to-five times more important to building trust than simply providing information. But if we’re not listening – if we’re distracted by our own thoughts about how to respond and what information we can provide to educate or defend our position– how can we possibly know where the other person’s values lie?

Building trust goes beyond the information dump. Often, those in food and agriculture believe if they just provide more information, consumers will come to their side. Although consumers do want more information about their food, according to CFI’s new research, information alone can fall flat.

Yes, information is important, but finding those shared values connections first is what really moves the needle.

Consumers simply want to know that you share their values and are doing the right things for the right reasons. So, keep that internal conversation at bay. Actively listening to understand their values and then sharing our own is the best strategy.

Learn more about CFI’s Engage shared values communications training to see how you can improve your communication with consumers today.