Want to be heard? Listen! | Dominican University College

Blog - Blogue

Want to be heard? Listen!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Some are wishing Pope Francis would just shut up already and be on his overly merry way. But most every jumbled, joyful, statement that comes out of his Argentinian mouth makes me want to stand up and cheer. Somewhat like watching the jester in a Shakespearian play - bumbling along breaking the rules of conduct, happily ignoring all normal protocol, yet smashing directly to the heart of things.


An immensely readable Pope, he’s one that will go down in history as a terrific marketer, if not a Great Saint. The amount of ink that has been spilled over this one man’s words on all sides - religious and secular, right and left, progressive and conservative - is incomparable. He’s made more headlines in the last couple years than any other topic or figure worldwide. In our information saturated world, that is quite the feat. Working in PR, I watch him in amazement, trying to learn a thing or two.


When we’re talking about the faith, there’s a temptation to focus on the message. On crafting the correct formulation, on making good theological arguments, on painting a clear picture about what a life of faith involves.


In marketing, they say “tell your story”. People will identify with you and buy what you’re selling.


This is true.



But it doesn’t get to the heart of it.

It doesn’t cut to the quick.


What about their story?


Do you care a lick about the people you’re speaking to? Do you pay attention to their language, their concerns, their struggles, their hopes, their desires . . . ?


This comes first. In order to tell your story, you need to get out of the way enough to listen. To hear their story.


You’ll notice the themes that surface in Laudaute si cover quite the gamut. He’s on about everything from unbridled capitalism, to climate change, to abortion, to, and especially, where the poor fall in all this.


We are digging our own grave and tossing the poor of the world in first to soften our landing.


We’re blowing our college fund on a sports car; there won’t be much left of the world of nature at the rate we’re burning it up. And those who suffer most from this are those who have least.

He gives both sides what they want, makes connections, builds bridges and then drives home his point. It’s not a matter of simply “branding” or “sticking to the message”. He reaches across party lines. He reaches to the people.

Business. The economy. As marketers, we’re tempted to think: “It’s about the money, stupid.”


Maybe. But not for the long-term. To continue selling, you have to continue hearing what your customers need, adapt, and then refine.

The good ones (in business or religion) tell us:

It’s about the people, stupid.


Are you speaking in a way that they feel they’ve been heard?


This is the first question to resolve.


Then you can tell your story.


Pope Francis, more than most, has figured this out. He’s notorious for responding to letters. Phoning people at random who reach out to him, people usually never expecting a response. In his speaches and in his writing, he weaves together a wide range of perspectives: he shows proof of having walked more than a few miles in different pairs of shoes. He hears the concerns of the people, and makes them feel heard.


As a marketer, and even more so as a Christian, this is important.

The economy of salvation is gratuitous love. Completely free.

But it needs to be received. To get there, people need to want to listen to you. The best way to do that, is to make them felt listened to.

I stand in awe of our Dear Pope as he leads what is more of a parade than a reform.

Fun. Effortless. Free.


By his choice of words and tone he reaches out to those who don’t normally give two shakes about the Church (NYTimes is his # 1 fan), he then asks those who are already on board with the Church to take a humbler approach, to look beyond the issues they’ve already got resolved, and to be self-critical instead of judgmental.


Straight up Gospel.


Making sure to kiss as many babies as he can along the way.


He weaves together themes from all sides but does not fail to challenge everyone for the same price.


By word and deed, he says:

"I hear you. I get it. Now be your better self. We can do this together.

And praised be!"