The most basic of all human needs is to be understood – Ralph Nicols.
Ralph Nicols is a member of the International Listening Association, a group that promotes effective communication through active listening. This requires making eye contact, reserving judgment, asking open questions that begin with how or why, and saying things like, “tell me more.”
Active listening is work, but it shows you really care. Ernest Hemingway, a good listener, said people talk a lot, but most don’t listen.
Good listeners in business are often the reason shoppers come back.
Mark Gibson, a manager at Canadian Tire, is a listener. I found this out when I met him during an anxious moment. I’d lost the key to a sports rack I bought at Mark’s store for my Buick Park Avenue, the one I introduced in my last column as Parker.
The rack lets me put a kayak on Parker. It’s a keyed system. To tighten the bars you firstly unlock a cover plate. Lose the keys, and you’re up the creek, so to speak. You can’t even remove the rack without damaging the car. I knew this. That’s why I hid my keys from idle hands.
This, I remember. What I can’t remember is where I hid them.
The rack loosened over winter. One bar shifted. Parker wasn’t happy with it in the first place. Now, he was irritable. I could tell. He’s always started right away. Lately, it takes two turns of his ignition.
I didn’t mention any of this to Mark. I just told him I couldn’t unlock the rack. Mark didn’t know me, but I said I’d shopped at Canadian Tire since it opened. The store still sold sports racks. Could we see if the keys in a package worked in my locks?
Mark made eye contact all the while. He seemed to feel my discomfort.
“Let’s talk to Megan in Parts,” he said right away.
A minute later, Megan extracted a pair of keys from a new roof rack just like mine.
“Jack’s car’s in the parking lot,” said Mark. “See if they work.”
“Great,” said Mark. “Let’s make Jack a new set … at no cost, of course.”
“I’m afraid we can’t, Mark,“ the girl who made keys reported. “They’re coded. Probably have to go to the manufacturer.”
Mark had gone out of his way to help me. I’d have understood if he’d just said, “Wish we’d been more helpful.”
“Jack,” he said, instead, as he held the keys out to me. “A locksmith can cut you a key. Get a set made, then bring mine back.”
Megan turned to Mark and rolled her eyes as I took the keys from Mark’s hand.
“Thanks,” I said, promising to be back with Mark’s keys before closing time.
“It might work,” Gary, at Bell Locksmith told me. “A lot of roof racks are keyed alike,” It took him a couple of tries – “tinkering,” he called it – before the new set finally worked.
He’d made a couple of trips to my car to be sure.
On the way back to Canadian Tire, I did a little drum roll on Parker’s steering wheel.
“Relief’s on the way, buddy,” I assured him.
Megan seemed even more surprised this time.
“You came back,” she exclaimed.
“Of course,” I replied. “Didn’t I say I would?”
A few days later, I thanked Mark, personally.
We learned more about each other then. We’re both fishermen, for example. Mark told me about the time he told a local angler he took a moment to chat to, that he’d run out of salmon roe.
“The next day,” recalls Mark, “ the man handed a clerk a bag of roe. This is for Mark,” he said.
Maple Ridge is bigger than Mayberry, but when you meet business folks like Mark and Gary who treat you like a neighbor, it feels like a small town.
I like that. I think Mark does to.
“I had a rusty old Ford 150 pick-up that I loved,” he told me after his fishing story. “My wife didn’t like it, but I wanted to keep that truck for as long as I could. Would have, but I blew the head gasket.”
I recalled the premature end of cars I’d befriended, and felt empathy for Mark.
Adlerian psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs (Children, the Challenge) calls that the ability to “see with the eyes of another, feel with the heart of another, and hear with the ears of another.”
“Mark,” I said, “there are people who become so fond of their cars they think of them as friends; even give them names.”
“I know,” replied Mark. “There’s a word for them. I just read it in an article. It’s anthro … something.”
“Anthropomorphists,” I suggested. “I might actually have written that one.”
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.