The children's book The Rabbit Listened can be interpreted as a story about different businesses attempting to understand their customer’s problem. The moral of the story is to listen and not assume.

The Story

InThe Rabbit Listened, a child named Taylor is upset that their block tower is knocked over. Several different animals approach Taylor about the problem.

Believing that they know just what should be done, each animal makes suggestions. “Let’s shout about it!” says the bear. “Let’s throw it all away,” says the kangaroo. “Let’s laugh about it,” says the hyena. The animals end up leaving because Taylor doesn’t want to act on their suggestions.

Then a rabbit quietly sidles up next to Taylor. The rabbit and Taylor sit in silence. Taylor asks the rabbit to stay.

The rabbit stays and Taylor begins to talk. Taylor shouts about the blocks, talks about throwing away the blocks, and laughs about the blocks. Finally, Taylor talks about his plans to build again and expresses excitement for the future.

The Analysis

In this story, the rabbit demonstrates two aspects of trust: intimacy and low self-orientation.

Taylor feels vulnerable because, in addition to the tower being knocked over, several characters approached Taylor and described what they believed Taylor should feel and do. When the rabbit approaches, Taylor is likely suspicious of the rabbit and doubtful that the rabbit will allow him to  display his own feelings and preferences.

Instead, the rabbit demonstrates intimacy by sitting in silence, staying when Taylor asks him to stay. Taylor then feels safe to talk and express his feelings.

With this same behavior, the rabbit exhibits low self-orientation. The rabbit doesn’t push his own agenda to solve Taylor’s problem. Instead, he’s present to respond to Taylor’s needs and wait until Taylor is ready.

The Application

This story reminds us that customers are only willing to be vulnerable and share their full problems once we’ve established intimacy. We can establish intimacy by demonstrating that the customer is  respected and that there won’t be negative consequences to revealing their vulnerabilities. Sometimes, as in Taylor’s case, this just takes time spent together.

Once your customer is ready to talk about the issues they’re facing, the rabbit can reminds us that there is value in just listening. You build trust (and a better understanding of the problem) by focusing on them and their story instead of pushing to talk about the outcomes they’d like to achieve.

This recap doesn’t do the story justice. Read The Rabbit Listened and then remember the rabbit when you start your customer discovery conversations.

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