The power of listening

listen

“The power of listening”

Once I had a very interesting conversation on this topic with one of my mentors. At that time, I was asking him for some career advice since I was switching industries. We met up at  Starbucks. He asked me some basic questions, such as, “What did you like / dislike about your industry?” “What are your long term goals, etc.?” After chatting with him for 30 minutes, I politely thanked him for taking the time and headed out. Right before I left, he stopped to say, “Hey, Kristy! by the way do you remember what I told you last time?”  I quickly tried to remember the last conversation I had with him and realized that it was about this time of the year when we had a very similar conversation about my career. After a short pause to gather my thoughts, I answered proudly, “Of course! You told me not to plan too much ahead…. blah blah blah”  But he stopped me and said “No! Guess you forgot already.”

I kept guessing but failed the answer that he was looking for. He finally told me, “Kristy, you are a very articulate person and know how to lead a conversation, but don’t forget to LISTEN. During our short conversation today, I’ve noticed that sometimes you failed to answer my questions. Instead of answering my questions, you spent time elaborating on the things that I was NOT interested.” He proceeded to point out exactly the things that I failed to answer. I was impressed at how much he actually remembered from the short 30 minute conversation. Finally, he concluded his advice with saying, “You should be careful. And I told you this last time! Pay more attention to what other people say.”

It was a really cool ‘aha moment’ for me. Now, I am running my own startup and spend lots of time talking to people. No matter if it is just a coffee meeting with customers or if it is a meeting with potential investor, I always try to remind myself this story. In my personal opinion, in Silicon Valley, people often fall into the trap of “overselling”. Many entrepreneurs and wannabe-entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and sell. They talk about their team, products and business model. They are eager to get more and more feedback (By the way, I should admit that I was like that too. I felt like I needed more validation from people, but not anymore).

I learned that having one good quality conversation with someone who genuinely cares about you / your business is much better than having hundreds of meaningless coffee meetings.

So, every morning, I remind myself, “appreciate the time that you have with that person, listen carefully, try to understand where the conversation is headed, what you want out of it, and finally, and most importantly, how can you be helpful to the other party.

Now, let’s chat!

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