There are some universal, timeless truths in this brief piece regarding which we all need fresh reminders and wake-up calls on a regular basis.  Allow me to set the stage with a personal memory.  I grew up in a home in the Midwest where my father owned a small meat market and grocery store.   I began discovering the “joy” of hard work at a very early age.  So much for child labor laws!

I can still hear in my mind the banter and stories of the “old timers” who used to come into the store.  Truly, some of them said the same thing every time, and many of them separately would say the same things that many of the other old timers said.  You have to know……….this was a very small Midwestern town where everyone knew everyone else.

One of these sage greetings that were often offered came in the form of a question rather than a simple hello:  “Are you working hard, or hardly working?” Yeah, I know, you’ve heard it to haven’t you!   Recently I have been thinking about that same question, but with a twist, applied to trying to have a meaningful conversation with another person:  “Are you listening hard, or hardly listening?”

You see, another setting we all recognize and a frustration we have all encountered is trying to have a “conversation” with someone who continually interrupts you, who doesn’t let you finish a sentence, whom you can tell is thinking about what they want to say next the entire time rather than truly listening to you.  Now I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but you would only have to pause about 10 seconds to come up with a couple of acquaintances who fit that profile.

Said another way, it is the truly dramatic difference between “hearing” someone and “listening” to someone.  If someone later says to you “Sure, I heard you,” there is no guarantee there that they listened to you, now is there?  It has often been observed that the good Lord gave us two ears but only one mouth, and that this balance is intentional!

Everyone needs to know they are heard and listened to.  You and I need to know that we are heard and listened to.  And allow me please to apply this to the laboratory of counseling, and especially the counseling that is so necessary in my world of estate planning and counseling.  I absolutely MUST hear and listen to my clients hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations.  I MUST hear and even feel what keeps my clients awake at 2:00 AM night after night.  These are the things we only learn by purposeful, intentional listening.

It really is not much of an art form to check off a few answers from clients to stock questions on a sterile list or form document and then transfer those answers to a “one size fits all” estate planning document that pretends to address the myriad of issues my clients face.  In fact, there is an incredible difference between “estate planning by word processing” and “estate planning by counseling.”  Truly, I am only interested in the latter!

This has been a bit of a personal piece and a personal application to my walk in life.  I would challenge you to apply the same to who you are, to your relationships, “how you roll” as you interact with people, etc.  Are you listening hard, or hardly listening?

About the Author: Randall Borkus

We believe that business succession, asset protection and estate planning are less about numbers and much more about helping people preserve, protect, and provide for who and what is most important to them.