How important is listening? In his best-selling book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell shares the results of an amazing study conducted by medical researcher Wendy Levinson which determined the likelihood of a surgeon being sued by a patient.

In the study, roughly half the doctors had never been sued. The other half had been sued at least twice. Levinson discovered the main difference between the two groups: The surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three extra minutes with each patient compared to the surgeons who had been sued.

So what exactly took place during those extra three minutes? The surgeons who had never been sued allowed time for questions and encouraged their patients to talk. They listened and showed that they cared.

Now, if a procedure had gone awry, someone was indeed sued. But in the case of these “listening surgeons,” it was not them. Instead, the lawsuits had been directed at the internist, radiologist or other party involved in patient care. Why? Because the patients liked their surgeons (and we typically don’t sue people we like).

The real lesson here is not about how to avoid getting sued (although it may well come in handy someday) but about how to quickly (in as little as three minutes) build a relationship in which the other person likes and trusts you. Often, the key to acquiring new business comes down to relationships, and the quickest way to build a relationship may be to listen instead of talk.

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com