You don’t have to look long to find plenty of talk about the importance of listening. (We’ve done our share here on this blog, and here, in a guest post for my friend Cordell Parvin.)

CMOs, consultants and marketing gurus regularly weigh in on listening’s critical role.

These discussions invariably (and understandably) focus on the art of closing the mouth and utilizing the ear to maximum effect.

It is worth noting that the eyes can listen, too. The gifted business developers, communicators and leaders have learned the listening potential of careful observation.

Take A Look At What The Room Has To Say

Years ago I heard a fundraiser talk about how he would listen to what the room has to say. He wasn’t talking about the conversations, but about the family photos on a fireplace mantle (or the absence thereof). Or the memorabilia on an office book shelf. Or the art or reading material on display.

Fast forward a decade, and I was listening to a business development colleague share umpteen ways to “work a room.” The only one I remember (and use myself because I am terrible at the networking scene) is use your eyes to see what the room will tell you. Example: an individual standing alone at the edge of the room is probably as uncomfortable as you — and will welcome someone to talk to.

Turns out, listening with the eyes is as important as listening the more conventional way.

Today hit detective television dramas highlight the powers of observation. Sherlock Holmes is the standard, of course. And in The Mentalist, the ability to see what most people overlook is all it takes to bolster a “psychic’s” brand.

The Principle of Intentional Listening

There is a difference between simply being able to hear — to take in sounds — and deciding to use any measure available to connect. Whether using the eyes or the ears, effective listening begins with an intent to learn. 

The foundation of intentional listening is the realization that the most important elements of connection may have little to do with ones’ insight, product, or service. Communicating — marketing of a product, an idea or an entity — begins with connecting. And connection is about the audience.

It is really not complex. Less about me; more about the individual, audience, or market with which I wish to connect.

This might even be a workable recipe for effective relationships at almost any level. Listen, learn, connect more deeply.