A Little Lesson in Listening

Last night I met a guy in a bar. (Don’t worry, Josh was there, it wasn’t that kind of meeting.) Often when I meet people, I ask them what they do. I remember watching the portrait photographer Sue Bryce speak on Creative Live last year and she said that upon meeting someone, you can tell what they value most by the first question that they ask you. So I suppose that this means that I value my career the most. So I asked him and he answered. And he talked and he talked. He told me how he is an entrepreneur and then he told me every detail about his entrepreneurialism. I learned that both his parents are entrepreneurs. I do not think that I have heard the word “entrepreneur” used so many times in one conversation. I do not think that I have used that word myself since grade 12 when I took an entrepreneurship class (which I aced, naturally). He told me how he was working on a project with a university, which happened to be my university. So I told him it was. “Oh yeah?”, was his response. He then told me what specific faculty he was working with and guess what? It’s where I spent four years of my life. Pretty cool, right? Nah, he wasn’t interested.

Querétaro, Mexico | Jessica Blaine Smith

We have all met people like this guy before. The ones who seem to like the sound of their voice more than anything else. The ones who talk, talk, talk about whatever they are passionate about. These people talk over others. They leave no room for conversation because the others with them have little room to speak and it’s clear that really, the speaker is not interested in their lives. The thing is, there is a whole lot to learn from each other when we take a few minutes and actually listen to one another.

If this guy had taken a moment to listen to me, he would have realised that not only did I get my degree from the faculty that he is currently working with (on a contract that hasn’t had been confirmed I should add) but that I am quite involved with the school. He would have learned that I still frequently see professors that teach there and that I know the people who work there. He would have realised that I may have a little influence on them should he needed me to talk him up.

After about twenty minutes of him telling me about all of his entrepreneurialism that he has been pursuing for just one year, he finally asked me what it is that I do. “Oh me? I am a professional photographer. Have had my company since 2003. I also manage a studio – it’s an 1,800 square foot space and I have five tenants there. I also have a couple of other projects that I am working on.” His face went a little blank as though thinking, “Aww man, I blew it.” He then said that if I ever wanted to meet up again to discuss business ideas, he would love to, that he is always looking for new businesses to get into. I smiled and nodded. It is great to have ideas and then work towards them. But it is also great to listen and to be aware when opportunities arise that will allow you to go further with those things. You can talk the shop but you have to know when to stop and really listen to what is around you.

P.S. The image used in this blog post is from my last trip to the beautiful city of Querétaro, Mexico. You can read all about it here.

2 Replies to “A Little Lesson in Listening”

  1. you met a guy at a bar?

  2. Good one Jessica… I would have loved to seen his face.

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