Hearing but not listening

In moments of exasperation I’ll say to my daughter, you hear me but you are not listening. The meaning is clear, while I may have her attention she is not truly absorbing what I am saying.

I am an old uncool man in his 50’s and as such though there is a great deal of trust between us, my message gets lost in a sea of other more interesting messages that enter the teenage brain. Why try my advice, which may involve discomfort, when the lure of immediate satisfaction beckons.

People in general do not know how to listen. They have ears that hear very well, but few have acquired the necessary skills which would allow those ears to be used effectively for what is called listening. Perhaps in part because what you learn might not agree with what you want to hear.

How many conversations have I had with entrepreneurs that included: it’s a great idea, but the scope poses challenges in execution. Before investing equity you should really iterate on who your customer is and their problems and needs, by actually talking to them in a structured fashion.

If given time I might continue and explain yet again that I see 2 ways of creating a product: you can 1) go out and talk to people and understand their needs, pain points, or 2) invent a product and figure out a way to manufacture a need (marketing). Do you have enough runway to last long enough to pay for sales and marketing until you can create this need? Is this money well spent?

Usually this talk is followed by smiles and nods of agreement. Then they go right back to what they were doing.

Because if you actually talk to customers about your “world changing Facebook should really buy this” product, you may find out that it only solves a problem for you and no one else. Which is uncomfortable (but is also an opportunity).

I’m not a good teacher, leader or advisor, so this could be an issue with my delivery. But I think more likely is the fact that truly listening uncovers new knowledge that may lead to actions involving discomfort. It’s easier to keep your listening skills undeveloped so that you can hear what you want to hear.