Last weekend I was listening to a news item on the radio – it was about a project in Texas where music is being used to help American vets deal with their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Basically it involves skilled singer-songwriters working 1:1 with the vets, asking the vets to relay their experiences and then writing songs based on the testimonies.
These songs then seem to help the vets. As a clinical psychologist says, “the music is a way of moving emotion and images and ideas out of you, into an objective form where you can see what it is, where you can express it…where you can face and honor what’s happened to you. And the process has been amazing.”
The story caught my attention on a number of fronts. It was very sincere and imaginative. But there was a particular snippet that leaped out at me. It came from singer-songwriter Darden Smith – the founder of the project – when he described how the process works: “We get quiet. And we let them talk.”
That’s it – they ask the vets the questions and they then mainly shut up and just listen.
I often work with clients who want to find out what various stakeholders think. It could for example be when I interview a client’s customer to uncover how my client can improve their customer service. Or it could be facilitating an employee workshop to reveal how a client’s employees believe the client’s company can be driven forward. In these and in other projects the key is to listen.
Of course I’ve to drive the conversation to a certain degree. That might be through diving deeper into a particular issue if I believe there is more insight to be gleaned. Or it might be through moving the conversation along to ensure that we cover the questions of most interest to my client. But in all cases listening is still core. Make sure to avoid talking at your stakeholders – and instead just sometimes “let them talk”. By the way, you can read and/or listen to the article here.