When we have conversations with our friends, family or colleagues it is very important that we are listened to; even if the topic of discussion is fairly light hearted, if we are not listened to we feel undervalued and like our opinion is of little value.
In fact in most cases we measure the closeness of our friends by the level with which we feel listened to. We want to know that if we have a problem we can go to those closest to us and talk openly, safe in the knowledge that what we are saying is being taken in.
But listening alone is not enough. The crucial part of being listened to is being heard. For example if we are given poor customer service and we complain to a member of staff, it is not enough for them just to listen to our words and then do nothing to rectify the situation. Instead we need to know that we have really been HEARD; that someone has absorbed our point of view and is ready to take action to rectify the problem or at least do all they can to provide a potential solution.
Carrie’s story and countless others like it show the huge value in hearing what people have to say. At one time or another we have all been guilty of saying we are listening when really we are not. Our minds have a tendency to wander if we are tired or if there is a pressing issue in our mind, but we must take more care to recognise when this is happening and really put the effort into giving our full attention to the situation that is in front of us.
There is no doubt that listening is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice to get better at it. Sometimes there are distractions; these can be physical (i.e. a TV on in the room) or our own internal thoughts that cloud our minds. But we can only make the best use of our time if we are attentive to the matters at hand.
We must also ensure that those that place trust in us know they are being heard. That doesn’t just mean acknowledging what you have listened to, but also acting on it. If someone is in need of assistance we must prove that we have heard their concerns by really doing what we can to rectify the problem.
Recently ubu’s Finance Lead Oliver Bennett was placed in a situation where he had to ensure he listened to and heard one of our customers’ significant friends. They had an on-going problem that many other people had not fully heard and so was unresolved. Therefore it was up to Oliver to really prove he had taken in and could rectify the issue. He told us:
“In February this year I received a phone call from one of the parents of the people we support.
He was concerned that his son was owed a considerable amount of money as the client contributions he had been making had been incorrect for a lengthy period of time.
He was frustrated and angry. He had been made promises, been told to contact various departments and had been given various reassurances but was tired of being let down time and again. What the gentleman wanted more than anything was to be listened to and heard!
So I listened to his problem. I made him simple promises that were realistic which I could stick to, such as: Outlining a timescale for resolving the problem, agreeing how frequently I would contact him to communicate updates, giving him my contact details and reassuring him I would take ownership of the problem.
The next thing I did was stick to those promises! By simply doing what I said and communicating when I said, I built a relationship with the gentleman. He was now confident he had a contact he could trust and that his problem was being addressed.
Weeks later after making a few phone calls, sending some e-mails and chasing responses to those calls and e-mails, the problem was resolved. I had achieved in less than a month what he had been trying to resolve for over a year.
On reflection, solving the problem was easy and I did not even need to know the fine details. All that I did was listen to the problem and understand what was required. I stuck to the promises I had made and persevered to get the problem resolved.”
After these two strong examples of what can be achieved when people are listened to and heard, it is surely obvious that we must always do our best to ensure we put this philosophy into practice. This will definitely result in a much more positive experience for the people around us and ourselves.
For ubu, the importance of being heard is the top priority when it comes to serving our customers. After all our support model places the customer at the centre of everything we do and so if we do not really listen and really hear the wants, needs and desires of the people we serve, then there is no possible way of us succeeding in our role as support provider.
One of the essential areas for this mantra to be applied is therapeutic work. It is so important that if someone expresses the desire to participate in such a role, that they are truly heard. Otherwise they may end up taking on a voluntary role to which their strengths are ill suited. Or it may be that someone wants to work with animals, but after going unheard are wrongly supported to apply for a customer facing role, in which they would not experience as much fulfilment as they could have.
For example, ubu customer Carrie recently spoke to her team about the prospect of finding a voluntary role that would be right for her. After experiencing previous roles that had not given her the level of personal satisfaction she was looking for, she was ready for a change. She said:
“I love to get involved in therapeutic work placements but have often struggled to find something that meets my needs and wants. In the past I have had voluntary roles within a charity shop and day nursery. Though I gained valuable work experience I found that I either didn’t really enjoy the work or was unable to do tasks required of me.
So I made it my target to find a position that would fit me best. I discussed my goal with ubu and together we devised an action plan of the steps I would need to take in order to find what I was looking for. We also did activities to enable me to identify my skills and what type of work I could do. From this I recognised that I was a chatty and friendly person who liked to be outdoors.
Following my action plan I accessed many resources including the internet at the library, the local newspaper, and job clubs. I also registered with a voluntary workers site called “Do it”.
It was on this site that I found a vacant position for a leaflet distributer. I couldn’t wait to apply as this was one of the specific voluntary roles I’d discussed with ubu; I knew I would enjoy it and felt I could do it really well – so I applied and hey presto! I was given the thumbs up.
I have now been working at the British Heart Foundation as a leaflet distributor for 4 months. I thoroughly enjoy this role as I’m working outdoors and get to meet new people every day.
I have gained new confidence, independence and love being part of a team. These are the great benefits that come from being able to do something you enjoy – I love it!”