When it comes to planning a memorable funeral service, listening to your client families’ wants and needs is a must. How else will you know how to properly honor their loved one? Listening is much more than hearing what your families say. It’s understanding and fully absorbing what they are saying and then applying it to the funeral service.
At ICCFA this year, I attended the session “Communication is a Two-Way Street” presented by Carolyn C. Shadle and John L. Meyer. During their presentation, they provided the skills it takes to become a better listener.
They informed us that according to a survey, 82% of people prefer to talk to great listeners than great speakers. That’s because when someone is a good listener, you feel they understand you which builds trust. Families need to feel that they can trust you to plan a successful funeral.
This is why we are sharing some of their tips and our own on how you can become a better listener. Check out these helpful listening techniques below.
Leave Room for Nonverbals
When meeting with your client families, you should exhibit many cues to show them that you’re actively listening to them. One way to do so is remaining silent as they speak. This doesn’t mean you should sit as still as possible without speaking a word. It means that as you avoid interrupting them, you should use nonverbals to express that you’re listening.
These include eye contact, head nods, and avoidance of distractions. Of course, don’t overthink these nonverbals, or they could get in the way from you actually retaining the information they share!
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Encourage families to share more by asking open-ended questions. What was your loved one like? What kind of burial would they want? What were their hobbies? These are all great questions to ask to get a better understanding of who their loved one was.
Use Parroting and Paraphrasing
Parroting and paraphrasing are great ways to indicate you’re actively listening and will help you absorb the information. Parroting is when you repeat part of what they say in your response. Paraphrasing is when you take what they say and repeat it in your own words — this can offer a more in-depth understanding.
Participate in Reflective Listening
After your families get to fully express themselves, offer well thought out feedback. Show them that you recognize their emotions and that you are taking them into account in this planning process.
Express Empathy, Not Just Sympathy
According to Diffen, empathy is “understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes” whereas sympathy is “acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.” Though showing sympathy is important, empathy establishes a more personal connection and understanding which is healing for the family.
To show empathy, try to imagine the perspective of the family. How would you feel in their exact situation? What kind of customer service would make you feel better during a hard time? Another way to show it is to avoid judgment. Grief is a complicated emotion and can make people say and do weird things. In the end, communicate to your families that you recognize the emotions they’re feeling.