ListeningBy Mary Anne Keane

My son recently turned 13, adding a second teenager to our household.

As I was reminiscing with a friend, who happens to be a very good psychologist, we began talking about how quickly time has passed, and how much our children have changed.

When they were small they idolized us and wanted to be just like us.

But as they move into the hormonal years, they turn into mutants, hardly recognizable. According to them, we know nothing and understand less.

So while we were on the subject, I took advantage of her expertise and simply asked, “Is there a more effective way to communicate with our children?”

And what she told me was what I can only term as an “Oprah aha moment.”

Listening in Life and in PR

Part of our job as parents is to nurture, protect, and advise our children. So when one of them comes to us with a problem, we jump right in and provide advice on how to remedy the situation, or perhaps use a story from our own childhood to let them know we understand.

In short, most parents want to help make their child feel better. After all, that’s what a good parent does, right? Wrong.

My aha moment came when my friend told me the best thing we could do as parents is to listen. That’s it. When one of our children comes to us feeling bad or sad or frustrated, the best thing we can do is to let it be. Just sit with the words they’ve just expressed.

Hold them or hug them, but just be.


Because when parents jump in to “save” their children from pain or sadness, what we do is devalue what they’ve just told us. It was that simple sentence that really struck a chord with me. I understood immediately. Sometimes we just need to listen.

If something as simple as that can work to build stronger bonds and relationships with our children, why can’t it work with our friends, colleagues, and clients?

Are you hearing what they have to say, or listening to what they have to say?

Hearing or Listening?

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Listening, however, is something you choose to do. Listening requires concentration so your brain has the ability to process the meaning of each word. Listening leads to learning.

Part of our job as PR professionals is to “fix” things, for instance, a client’s lack of brand recognition. We can more effectively serve our clients if we listen to their challenges and schedule some individual thinking time, to more clearly assess the situation, and provide thoughtful feedback.

I wanted to find out for myself, so I took an online test to assess my own listening skills. It did a pretty good job explaining where my weakness lie and where I should improve.

What kind of listener are you? How attentive are you to your clients needs?

Take this listening skills test to find out and learn ways to improve how you communicate.

Mary Anne Keane

Mary Anne is a marketing communications professional with more than 20 years experience serving a diverse client base, from international not-for-profits to some of the country's largest corporations. She specializes in project management where she is skilled at assessing clients' needs, incorporating their direction, and ultimately producing results.

View all posts by Mary Anne Keane