How important is listening? In his bestselling book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell shares the results of an amazing study conducted by a medical researcher to determine the likelihood of doctors being sued by their patients.

In this study, roughly half of the doctors had never been sued. The other half had been sued at least twice. The research disclosed a specific difference between the two groups: The surgeons who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued spent with their patients.

So what exactly took place during those extra three minutes some of the doctors spent with their patients?

The surgeons who had never been sued, in three minutes or so, allowed time for questions, and encouraged their patients to talk. They paid attention by listening and they showed that they cared.

Now, if a procedure went awry, someone did get sued. But in the case of these “listening surgeons,” it was not them. According to the study, documented cases showed that it was the internist or radiologist that was sued, not the surgeon. Why? Because the patient actually liked the surgeon, and, we typically don’t sue people we like.

The real lesson here is probably not about how to avoid getting sued (although it may come in handy sometime). The lesson is about how to quickly (sometimes in about three minutes) build a relationship founded in the other person liking and trusting you.

Often, the key to acquiring new business comes down to relationships, and the quickest way to build a relationship may be to listen, not talk.

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