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How to Be a Better Listener in Writing

how to be a good listener in writing

You may not think of the need to be a good listener in writing, but your customers want you to understand their written communication (email, text, or chat) every bit as much as their spoken communication. Here are tips on how to be a better listener in writing.

Whether in person, on the phone, or in written communication, good listening skills make the other person feel respected. You can actually help build someone’s self-esteem by how you listen.

Focus. When you’re reading a customer’s or coworker’s email, text, or chat message, focus on it. Don’t switch back and forth between, say, your desktop monitor and your phone. Don’t try to multitask. According to David Burkas in Psychology Today, “You can’t multi-task. Not really. And neither can anyone else.

Review. Review the customer’s email, texts, and chat messages before responding. One of the wonderful parts of written communication is that it doesn’t require instant responses. Unlike verbal conversations, where there is an expectation of rapid back and forth, written communication allows time for more thoughtful responses.

Review for:

  • Questions. Ensure you answer each question. It’s easy to skim written communication and overlook questions.
  • Complaints. As with questions, it’s easy to overlook complaints. Make sure to address each complaint.
  • Names. Make sure you use the same spelling of the customer’s name as they do. Do NOT shorten their name unless they do. For example, don’t assume that someone whose name is Janice goes by the nickname of Jan, or that James uses the nickname Jim. Use their name the exact same way they do.

Summarize. When you respond to a customer’s written communication, use the opening paragraph to summarize the questions and points they made. That’s a great way to force yourself to review before responding. It’s also one of the keys on how to be a good listener in writing.

Follow their lead. Use your customer’s email, text, or chat messages as the model for how you communicate back to them. For example, if they use emoji, it’s probably okay for you to use emoji as well. If they show advanced technical knowledge, it’s probably okay for you to use some technical jargon. People tend to write and speak the way they want others to write and speak to them.

Be thoughtful. Take time to think about unspoken issues in the email, text, or chat. Some people are embarrassed by their lack of technical competence. They may be reluctant to ask basic questions or they may not even know what questions to ask. Think about someone you care for deeply (perhaps a parent or grandparent). Then, think about how you would try to help them with a similar issue. Treat your customer or coworker like that.

Use empathy. Put yourself in your customer’s position. Think about the times you sent an email, text, or chat message and were frustrated by the response. Think about what would have prevented your frustration and do that with your customer or coworker.

For more ideas about successful written communication, check out this blog post on doncrawley.com. Take your listening skills to a whole new level with our on-demand course How to be a Better Listener: The Fine Art of Listening Well.

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