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Listening To Clients

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

As a mediator, I have spent a great deal of time reading, training and thinking about how best to listen to the parties (as distinct from the attorneys). I spend a lot of time in mediations listening to the parties. I want the quality of my listening to be respectful, authentic and empathetic. I want to make a truly human connection.

It occurred to me to remind myself to bring that same intention to listening to my law clients.

Fortunately, Mark Goulston, M.D., a psychiatrist, business consultant and coach, has outlined his secrets of success in Just Listen. Essentially, Dr. Goulston’s premise can be summed up like this:

“The more your “get” where someone is
coming from (and care where they are
coming from) the more likely you’ll be
able to take them where you want them
to go.”

One of the impediments to deeply listening is our natural inclination to interrupt with a comment or with an analogy from our own experience. Dr. Goulston recommends reigning in that inclination, and instead, asking the speaker to continue speaking. He encourages them with three types of “interventions”:

1. “Tell me more.”

2. “Hmmm,” and,

3. “Really?”

If you use these techniques with your clients, I think you’ll find that they will appreciate you all the more. Everyone is comforted by feeling heard and respected. (Thus, the cinnamon toast: comfort food.) You’ll have a much stronger connection. A by-product is, having felt heard, they are more likely to listen to you.

All new techniques require practice. Choosing a loved one to practice this on could be a true win-win.


Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class… MORE >

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