The Art of Truly Listening
By Blake Lindsay
I soon discovered that life as a disc jockey was really exciting, but it had a major drawback. Tenures of being on the radio did not usually last for more than three years at one place. I needed something more stable and more permanent where I could work full-time at one job and then fill in my extra time with radio work. Bank of America came to my rescue.
Recruiters from Bank of America were listening to me speak at a meeting where I had stated a desire to work in customer service. A couple of weeks later I was contacted. I completed several initial interviews and passed the bank’s required written assessment.
No other blind people were employed in the call center of the bank, but I had convinced them to open up a career door for me. The bank and its employees assisted me in providing all of the necessary adaptive technology. We worked well together. I had superior trainers who were patient and I gave them 100 percent of my efforts.
Prior to working at the call center, I had always thought of myself as a wonderful listener. Working at the call center provided me with a wake-up call that my listening was not all that great. However, I learned from working in customer service how to keenly listen to what people were really saying.
This job demanded personal mastery of the art on how to listen intently. At the bank, I learned how to maintain focus on conversation and to consider the inconvenience that someone other than myself was experiencing. I was certainly glad when I could resolve a customer-related problem and could often hear the relief come right through the telephone. Our call center employed 500 people, yet I managed to maintain my productivity in the top 15 percent status for five out of seven years.
I eventually earned the responsibility of training associates, where I discovered my effectiveness in coaching sighted people. My unique challenge of being blind accelerated the learning curve. The people I coached had not worked with a blind person before and they all were quite attentive. I used to tell them, “If Blind Blake can do this, so can you. Don’t you think?” It put many people at ease and gave them a boost of confidence.
I wish everyone had the opportunity to work in customer service for at least a year. It is a true relationship enhancer. My 10-year tenure with the occupation assisted me in becoming an improved compromiser in working and personal relationships.
*Excerpted from Blake’s book, Out of Sight Living.