SM Step Two: Listen Like A Chick

*Warning* This post relies on stereotypes of men and women.  I tell you this upfront so that we don’t have to have a comment section fight about it later.  Plus, there’s a grain of truth in these stereotypes…admit it.

 Men and women do not speak the same language.  This is not a bombshell to anyone.  If you are not a master at observing communicational patterns, let me break down for you exactly what I mean.

            When most men speak, they pretty much use exactly the words they mean.  They usually mean the denotative meaning, and regardless of the tone of voice they use, the words are the most important part.  They’re all about the text.  If a guy says he’s, “Fine,” then it’s a pretty good bet that he’s actually fine.

            Most women, on the other hand, are all about the subtext. “Fine,” when spoken by a woman can mean anything from, “Fine,” to “I’m going to throw this bottle of laundry detergent at your head and not apologize for it.”  We’re not so much about the words, but do we ever love to dwell on things like tone of voice, nonverbal clues and “the real message.”  We add a lot of sugar to the pot if we have serve up bitter coffee, and because of that, when we receive an email, we try to figure out what it’s really saying and what the person really wants, because, CLEARLY, what the person means isn’t what they typed – it’s revealed by what they left out and what words and phrases they used. 

            Is it any wonder why a lot of men think that women are insane and a lot of women think that men are jerks?  The irony being, of course, that men, as a general rule, are actually a bit more clear than women are when it comes to the interpersonal arts (but don’t tell Oprah I said that or she will send people repossess my ovaries for a lack of feminist sisterhood solidarity!).

            Well, as insane as it sounds, when it comes to listening to feedback online, you’re way better off if you learn to listen like a chick.  In a universe of text, subtext becomes both increasingly important and more difficult to be sensitive to without the assistance of nonverbal cues. 

            Am I saying that you should go searching for the drama points in a review left by an angry resident? Heck no.  No one wants drama (not even chicks!). But what I want you to do is understand that what they’re really talking about when they list 5 things that, “Completely Suck,” about your community isn’t always just those 5 things.  It’s almost always the common threads between those 5 things – problems like bad customer service, no follow through, poor maintenance, being disrespected, etc. Put them all together and they seem to flow into each other until they create this oncoming loud rush of a river of complaints and we can’t pick out the real problems anymore.

            Listening like a chick means that you’re hearing the feedback for what’s actually there.  Domino’s Pizza is one of my favorite brands when it comes to examples of listening like a chick.  In 2009 two employees made a video of themselves doing unsanitary things to the food in a Domino’s restaurant and then released that video to YouTube, where it subsequently went viral and spread faster than H1N1. While I don’t commend the way that the company initially handled the situation, what I do love about this story is the way they took the feedback.  Wading through all the “Gross” and “Unsanitary” comments that were left by the social media viewing public, Domino’s zeroed in on a pattern of comments that indicated, “with employees like these it was no wonder that their food is terrible.”

            Their food was terrible.  In college, we called them Death Discs.  We still ate them, because cheap pizza is cheap pizza when you’re a college student, but it was by no measure, “Good Food.”  Until recently, Domino’s recipe never really changed, no matter how terrible their edible creations were or what people thought of them.  The feedback for the last 20 years on their pizza has been the same, but the difference is that when it came attached to that video, they were forced to start actually listening to it.

            And they did. But that part of the story is really for tomorrow, when we start to talk about Step Three.

SM Step Three: Going from Info Intake to Action

SM Step One: Open Your Ears