What do you do when a client accuses you of not listening?
Well, one response that’s sure to get your client’s full attention is to ask him to fondle your nether regions. I’m being serious here. I’ll explain.
At first, your client might baulk at this request. Don’t be surprised. Push on regardless. Immediately take off your shoe and ask him to tickle your toes while he talks to you. If you prefer, you could ask him to gently stroke the palm of your hand. As you do this, explain to your client how you are going to give him a practical demonstration of the findings of a study undertaken by researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute.
What the touchy-feely Plancksters discovered is that sensory stimulation improves hearing. Whether the Institute’s researchers discovered this by design or accident I’m not sure.
Here’s how it works –
Our bodies collect information from all five of our senses. Deep in our brains, this information is gathered and bundled into coherent pictures. Scientists call it sensory integration. It was thought that this took place in an area of our brain called the associative cortex. But the researchers at the Max Planck Institute have been able to show that, at least in the case of hearing and touch, sensory integration takes place where the hearing actually takes place – in the auditory cortex.
How could they be so sure? They used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity. They discovered increased activity in the auditory cortex when an auditory stimulus was combined with tactile stimulus.
So, there you have it. Your hearing is directly affected by your other senses. You hear something different when someone is tickling your toes.
Naturally, there are one or two dangers with this.
First, are you sure you really want your client stroking your little piggies?
Second, are you sure your client will understand that you are only asking him to fondle you as part of a scientific experiment?
Finally, a flaw in the Plancksters’ methodology. I’m not arguing their findings that sensory stimulation improves hearing.However, they overlooked the distraction of a client fondling your feet. It’s possible you’ll imagine you hear your client saying, “my God, you’re an attractive man” when he is really saying “I have already gone through my business plan”.
Feeling brave? Give it a go.
For the timid, another valid response to your client’s “you’re not listening to me” accusation might be to challenge him. Like a poker player dealt a dud hand, you could try to bluff your way out of the situation. This requires a steely disposition and some fast thinking (or a suite of standard, rehearsed retorts you can call on at will). When your client claims that he told you that he needed the feasibility study by the 10th, reply with conviction that he didn’t say the 10th, but the 20th and that’s the date you gave your team. Unless your client covertly records all of his conversations, it comes down to his word against yours. Refuse to give in, refuse to admit you could be wrong and you just might succeed in forcing your client to wonder if he did accidentally say the 20th. Once doubt has opened the door for a peak, a bit of a nudge should knock it off its hinges.
Of course, this refusal to back down could equally lead to an all-out ding-dong – the popping of veins, the flood of expletives, the launching of the odd missile, even the throwing of punches. It has happened. Physical fights in boardrooms might be rare, but they sure make for interesting memoirs. They are also pretty much always a short step away from the severing of the professional relationship – unless you have a boxing promoter as a client.
Photo by Wiliman Wiliman via Unsplash