Are you hearing or listening?

By Mark Shannon

All too often we get so wrapped up in our own personal lives that we fail to put other’s thoughts and feelings first.  In our clinic I counsel the therapists to really listen to their clients when they have their initial consultation. 

Take a minute or two and count from 1-100 and total up the number of times you encounter the number 9.   Before reading further, what is your answer?

Therapist:  “Hi there, my name is Mark, so what brings you into the clinic today?”

 Client:  “Well you see, I sit at the computer all day and I’m not use to that.  My low back is really bothering me.  This is a new job position for me and I am spending a lot of my day in front of a computer using the mouse.  Up here between my spine and shoulder blade I have this stabbing pain – maybe it’s from using the mouse too much – I really don’t know.”

Therapist:  “Ok – that’s great.  I would like for you to get undressed to your comfort level.  Then get under the sheets lying face up.  I’ll knock on the door before I come back in.”

In this brief chat, what did the therapist understand from the client’s comments?  It doesn’t take the great detective Sherlock Holmes to deduce the obvious.  Based on the therapist’s final comment, they didn’t actually hear what the client was saying. 

Most every time we encounter a client, we should listen with understanding and focus on the client and not ourselves, they will tell us what they are needing and therefore expecting from this massage.   Because we are looking forward to the next client or perhaps the last client of the day, we often breeze through the massages seeing them merely as steps to an end or worse yet, just another dollar sign.

Do you ever find yourself calling people you have been introduced to by generic nicknames?  “Hey babe”, “hey there brother”, “What’s up bud”?  If you use such salutations, my guess is that you were not focused and listening when you met them the first time, maybe your mind was on something else and not the person standing right in front of you.

I met former state representative Steve Largent some years ago when he was running for office.  I had invited him to my office where I worked with several insurance agents.  I wanted him to come give us a talk about the platform on which he was campaigning.  I spent 10 minutes with Mr. Largent before this meeting.  He spent about 30 minutes talking with everyone and politely thanked me for inviting him to our offices and then left.  Mr. Largent won the election.  A few years later, I was changing planes at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport and passed by Mr. Largent in the airport terminal, with a smile on his face he said to me; “Mark Shannon, how good to see you again.”  Not only did he know me by my first name but also my last – all from that brief meeting 2 years prior.  That moment has made an enormous impression on me.  This professional football hall of fame player and politician knows my name.  This man surely knows how to pay attention to details.

What are you focused on when you first meet your client?  Can you make them feel like the most important part of your life during the time they are with you?  I would venture and say that if you do, if you can make someone feel as if they are that important to you, then you might just make a very good client out of them.  You would get my vote!

By the way, what was your answer to the question about the nines?  There are twenty times you encounter the number nine between one and a hundred.  Write it out and check me – it’s in the “paying attention to the details” where you will find them – that’s also where you’re going to find some of your best clients.

List for me the details you think should be discovered by a therapist in an initial interview.  Check back often and see if someone adds something you missed!

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