The Strange, Creative Force: On Listening Well

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Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we are listened to, it creates us — it makes us unfold and expand.
— Karl A. Menniger

You know that disorienting feeling when you realize that something you do as a matter of course is, in fact, not all that common? When it’s a quirky family habit discovered among merciless schoolmates, it leaves you deflated and stunned. But the effect is surprisingly delightful when its clients repeatedly saying they feel great after we meet, how energized they feel as we work through their branding project.

Sometimes the most intuitive things leave the biggest impact. For us that’s been the (deceptively) simple art of listening well.

Listening is at the heart of our business because we’ve spent years doing it for each other as friends. Turns out we were forming our brand well over a decade ago in a row house in Columbia Heights.

Here’s the thing: a client’s idea usually exists primarily in their own mind, bolstered by a few supportive friends and impressive happy hour banter. In reality it takes provoking questions and good, long listening for the threads of an idea to come together into a real plan. Creating a place for that process is the primary goal of all our client strategy sessions and consults.

A friend once told us that when you don’t know what to do, just get super curious. We certainly don’t have all the answers for each unique business idea we support. There will almost certainly be awkward silences and a few “Uh...I don’t know?”s. We give these the gracious, welcoming space they need to make sure clients feel safe to explore. To make connections. To set some aspects of the idea aside. And most especially — to listen themselves to their gut instinct and own their vision.

Ultimately, asking lots of questions gets the client talking, exploring ideas from new angles and making connections. Ideas that had previously lurked in the back of their mind begin to take shape, and maybe even seem realistic and attainable.

We push through because we truly believe in the wisdom of E.M. Forster: 

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”