Life Lessons from the Library: Listening is a Good Thing.

We do many things well in the library, but I have to admit that sometimes we don’t listen as well as we should. Usually, this happens when we’ve had several of the same requests in one day, and we just assume that we know what the ending of the sentence will be. For example, if ten students have come in needing Charles Dickens, then instead of listening to the 11th request for a book, we’ll pipe in, “I know Great Expectations.” 

Now if that’s what the student actually needs, we come off looking almost psychic and impressive. But if not, then the student is less impressed, even more so when we don’t listen for the answer but start telling him that the book is checked out already or where in the stacks it’s located.

The latter has led to some misunderstandings and students feeling quite hostile at our lack of attention to their needs. And understandably so. Everyone likes to feel that he or she is being listened to.

Of course, that’s easier to say in the abstract than at the end of the long day when you’re facing the 100th question. But it’s worth remembering that it’s not the 100th question for the asker, and to him/her, it may be the most important going on at the moment.

So for those of us in the customer service business (which really is everyone since customer service is really just old-fashioned manners), here are some tips to help us remember to listen.

  • Everyone likes to be listened to.
  • Train yourself not to talk until the other person has finished. That’s often half the battle.
  • The other half is to keep listening even after you’re sure you know what’s coming next.
  • And the Golden Rule definitely applies here: Do you like to be interrupted when you’re talking or have other people assume they know what you want or need before you finish asking a question? Then don’t do it to others.
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One thought on “Life Lessons from the Library: Listening is a Good Thing.

  1. Well, that isn’t just an important basic concept in any field of knowledge, but a matter of social manner.
    When dealing with customer or co-workers, with a friend or your husband (it may be a consensus that husbands like to disagree, I had noticed), you must listen to what the other has to say before you make any remark that may end up in regrets or just stupidity (if you don’t listen to..you don’t know what you are talking about and normally ed up not solving the problem, but creating a bigger one).
    I always thought that assumptions and prejudice are so close that even scares me. That understanding is particularly interesting to be applied when one is in the worplace and have to deal with situations in a professional and legitime way.

    That had been said, I strongly believe that professionals of information have the obligation to communicate in the best way possible, and by “communicate” I am not refering to language, but to the use of good sense and judgment; the capability to read people behavior, antecipate and/or attend their needs even when they are looking for “this” book written by “this famous author” with “that” red cover.
    Delightfully challenging, right? Thanks Dewey and the www!!!

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