Recently, a radio host used the word discerning – a word not commonly heard. Even she commented that the word has become obsolete. Discerning is the ability to see and understand people, situations, and things in a deep and clear way. And I believe it is the key to insight. Where does insight come from? No one really knows, but we know knowledge, experience, research, and data feed it—but there is something else, something intuitive, instinctive, a vibe.
The ability to discern is particularly relevant today because, more than product expertise, your clients want business expertise from you, and that takes judgment. Your goal is to use your acumen to help your clients see things differently and recognize the value in changing the status quo.
It is the ability to discern that allows you to do this. The ability to discern helps you know the difference between good and great, important and unimportant, to make decisions that lead to success and avert failure.
In talking about his work with independent films, Ethan Hawk summed it up when he said, “You got to be very discerning about where you put your five bucks, and where you cut, and where you don’t cut.” Every day you must make similar decisions about where to spend your time, where you don’t, what ideas make sense for your clients and what don’t, what deals will close and which will never close, go to competitors, or drift to the land of no decision. It is just as important to discern when something is wrong as when it is right, even if you don’t know at the moment how to make it right. Discernment captures the ability to do all this.
Are we born with the ability to discern? Surely some more than others—but like selling, most of us can learn it. What does it take to discern? The answer makes me think of the joke about How to get to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice. We have all heard the expression “a discerning eye.” Discerning is developing that discerning eye. It takes work, but it will change how you communicate and what you are able to perceive.
After client meetings, after client phone calls, in emails, and in conversations with colleagues, take a moment to ask yourself how did what you say resonate with your client, prospect, or peer. Heighten your ability to notice how they react. Stop and think about it. Little by little, you will see more. We are going so fast from one activity to another, the ability to discern itself is becoming obsolete. You can change that through conscious observation. The simple question How did … (what you just communicated) resonate? will help you begin to discern the subtle messages that are being sent.
We all have the ability to discern, but somehow it gets beaten out of us. Think of children, the masters of discernment— just try to fool them. It is a progression. Your clients must trust you to make a change. Gaining that trust requires that you listen to them. Listen to them with a discerning eye, and you will hear a lot more…
Here’s to peace and the wisdom of discernment for 2015—knowing the real from the unreal, and finding the real.