Head Voices

In which we are reminded to focus on the qualities of our clients’ voices to silence our own.

There was a summer night, years ago, when I returned to Woods Hole, Massachusetts on the evening’s last ferry from Martha’s Vineyard. While I was staying with friends in Woods Hole, I had been out on the Vineyard for the day, enjoying the beach and reading a book I’d found in my friends’ house – Stephen King’s second book, ‘Salem’s Lot, a story about a pretty Maine country town…overtaken by vampires. Hiding. In the dark. Snatching people away. You know, a little light summer beach reading.

Docked in Woods Hole, preoccupied with the story, I walked silently off the ferry with other day-trippers and boarded the parking shuttle bus. A mile up Woods Hole Road, the driver let me out at the end FR Lilly Road, a 400 meter straight shot into the moonless Cape night, framed by overhanging trees and vines, leading toward my friends’ cottage.

Sneakers crunching on the rough Cape asphalt, completely in the dark, senses on edge from King’s tale, every squirrel jump, twig crack, and owl hoot filled my head and rolled my stomach. Vampires???  Throat tight, breathing labored, light-headed, I wanted to take deep breaths…even just one… and I couldn’t.

‘WALK!!!” I roared to myself. “WALK!” And I walked, listening to my breathing, counting steps to calm myself until I could see the house, and then I ran, full out, to the door!

And you know: It was all mind games. Head voices.

Sometimes, in sales calls gone off track, these head voices come. Second guessing, self-doubting, critical (“Oh, lame question….. No, no! You’re pitching too soon! Ask this. ASK THIS!!!! He doesn’t like me. Smile! Lean forward – mirror the body language. What did she say? Nuts, I MISSED it…”)

Counting, to focus ourselves, like I counted steps on the Cape – not so good in sales calls. We miss everything.

Listening to our clients’ voices, really listening, noticing the qualities of the voices – much better. Is the client’s voice rising or falling? Louder or softer? Sentences longer or shorter? Breathing faster or slower? Does it feel like energy is coming toward us or away?

By focusing on the physical qualities of clients’ voices, we’re paying more attention to the thing to which we want to pay more attention – the client. Done well, our head voices go silent so we can hear our clients’ words rather than our own.

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