One of the most important skills for any ghostwriter to master is the ability to actively listen to their client. Listening is not a passive endeavor, it’s hard work and done correctly it can make the difference between ghosting an OK book that gets buried in the ‘I’ll find time later to read’ pile and ghosting a great book that’s on everyone’s bedside reading pile.
Effective listening means fewer misunderstandings, less errors and less wasted time getting to the spine of the story. Active listening will also create a sense of empathy and understanding, meaning your client will feel valued, energized and willing to open-up more. Listening means paying attention not only to the story but how it is told including the use of language, voice and non-verbal messages. The ability of the ghostwriter to listen effectively depends on the degree to which he or she perceives and understands these messages.
Below are ten ninja listening tips for ghostwriters …
1. Face your client and maintain eye contact. Put your phone and any papers aside. Stay natural – don’t eye-ball your client in an intimidating way, rather make them feel relaxed. If they are unable to maintain eye contact with you, don’t worry. Just carry on regardless. Remember, it’s perfectly fine to look away every so often.
2. Be attentive, relaxed and most of all, present. Try not to let your thoughts wander. Stay focused and alert.
3. Keep an open mind. Listen without judging. You may hear a lot of unexpected things or your client may open-up to you with information they have kept secret for years. Remain tolerant and respectful. Your client needs to feel they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings.
4. Listen to the words and try to picture them. Stay focused and arrange abstract concepts in your mind, or literal pictures if you prefer. You will find this habit makes it easier to make connections between random thoughts and information. Ultimately, this will help with the eventual book’s structural process.
5. Don’t interrupt or impose your ‘solutions’ – ever.
6. Wait for your client to pause before asking any clarifying or probing questions.
7. Ask questions only to ensure and establish understanding. If you find that your questioning techniques have led your client away, then gently bring them back on track.
8. Try to feel what your client is saying. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening. It will create rapport between you and your client, making the whole ghostwriting experience more satisfying for you both.
9. Give your client regular feedback. By nodding and using appropriate facial expressions you are reflecting your client’s thoughts and feelings. Occasionally paraphrase your client’s words to check understanding and use well-timed ‘hmmms’ and ‘uh-huhs’.
10. Finally, show you are actively listening by leaning forward toward your client with an open, relaxed posture. This will instantly put your client at ease
Adopt the SOLER position.
S = Sit squarely
O= open posture
L= Lean forward
E= Eye contact