Shhhh….Do you hear that?

Groomer to Groomer


“Shhhh….Do you hear that?!”


By:  Joe Zuccarello


For some of you, the answer to this question is easy.  For most of you, the answer to this question is difficult.  “What is the difference between Hearing and Listening?”  Let’s look at the dictionary definition of each.


Hearing:  The faculty or sense by which sound is perceived.


Listening:  To give attention with the ear.  To pay attention, heed, or obey.  To wait attentively for a sound.  The skill of receiving messages to accurately grasp facts and feelings to interpret the genuine meaning.


Let’s look at it from a slightly different angle; one all of us can fully understand.  When a dog is barking in your salon or kennel, you can hear it.  While some may tune it out after a while, your ears are still hearing it.  Listening is something totally different.  The definition above uses a key phrase that will frame this entire writing; to give attention.  Hearing takes little effort, while listening is work.


Listening is one of the most important things you can do to be an effective manager or businessperson. We must listen to our staff and to our customers, not just hear them.   Studies prove that 75% of effective communication is listening, while most people only spend about 30-40% doing it.  So, if it is this much work, my job is to make your work easier, so I am going to delve a bit deeper into the art of listening to help you identify each of its parts.  Baby steps…master one at a time and when you do, you will be a much more effective communicator.


  1. Listen Actively.  Here is where the work comes in.  This means you have to put yourself and the person you are listening to in an environment conducive to listening.  I know this is not always the case, but should absolutely be the case if you are having an important discussion with a staff member or handling a concern or complaint by a customer.  Even if it means you ask for forgiveness and delay the conversation until you can change environments, it is worth it in the long run because you will be amazed at what you miss in a conversation when you are distracted by noise, time constraints, etc.  So now that you have put yourself in a listening environment, the next step is to keep your mouth shut and let the other person speak.  Purposely try NOT to interrupt or form any opinion about what they are sharing with you until the end of what it is they have to say.  A great way to do this is to force yourself to take notes while they speak.  Your brain has a hard time writing and thinking at the same time so write while they talk.  As much as you would like to say what you are thinking at that point, don’t.  Ask questions to clarify and encourage the speaker to offer you even more information you may need to interpret what they are saying, form an opinion, and even offer a solution.  Write, ask questions, and write again.  Oh, and it never hurts to say thank you for telling you what they had on their mind and it’s also perfectly fine to ask for some time to let the information you just heard “digest” with you for a bit before committing to any response.
  2. Judge Content, Not Delivery.  Many are not great communicators, especially if they are upset about something.  Emotions sway our message delivery and often times cause us to use the wrong inflection, tone, or language.  Understand this is human nature and be careful you don’t form any opinions or actions based on their delivery.  Some may act out, while others become more reserved or even “tight lipped”.  Picture yourself as a Judge sitting on your bench in a courtroom, absorbing all of the facts as they uncover themselves.  You don’t see the Judge handing down a ruling or interrupting while the facts of the case are being aired.
  3. Be responsive.  Part of active listening is what happens after you have the information you need.  You must have a response, even if it is one that will not be to the speaker’s favor.  While I encourage you to take a great deal of interest in what it is they are saying, sometimes you cannot solve their problem.  This is rare, however.  You should commit to some form of response and action following these types of conversations.  Some conversations you listen to require very little action.  Sometimes a simple, “I understand” or “I apologize” can suffice.  Sometimes the speaker just wants to be heard and when you actually listen to them, they feel better about their concerns and are encouraged to share their concerns with you in the future instead of internalizing it and leaving or worse, blowing up.
  4. Exercise your mind and listen for ideas.  Most often, the person you are listening to will offer you a clue or even something very obvious that you can use as part of the solution.  Instead of having to toil over what it is that will make them happy, many times they will divulge it during their part of the conversation.  If they don’t, ask them.  Don’t commit to always giving them what they want, but sometimes what they want is less than you would have offered to begin with, saving you time and effort.


If you take my advice, and understand thought is faster than speech, take time to listen and think about what you want to say before saying it.  After all, we are trying to strengthen relationships and trust.  Both are accomplished by active listening and appropriate, mutually beneficial responses.


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