At Southpaw, all our work is centered around listening to people. The power of listening is what got me started in the research field.
Right after college I was in the Peace Corps in Cape Verde, 400 miles off the coast of West Africa. I taught English and ran a women’s fitness group. I had a great experience, but I realized that I didn’t want to be a teacher and I had no idea what I did want to do. The last thing I did in Cape Verde was sit for an exit interview, where someone from Peace Corps Washington flew in and asked me a million questions about my experience. When she finished, she asked what I wanted to do when I went back to the states, and immediately, I said, “I want your job. You get to fly around the world and talk to people? What is this called?”
I came home, looked for any job I could find with the keyword survey or interview, got a job interviewing people in state prisons all around NY, and the rest is history. I’m a researcher; it’s all I’ve ever done.
The reason I was so struck by this woman’s job and felt so strongly that talking to people and hearing their stories was my calling was because the experience of being a respondent was so gratifying and comforting. The interviewer just listened. She wanted to hear what I had to say. She was not judging, not reacting, just asking me questions and letting me talk and making me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world.
Everyone wants that. One of our core human needs is to feel seen and recognized. If you are a brand or an organization who wants to show people (in your products, your communications, whatever) that you recognize them, you know their stories, you understand what’s in their hearts and minds and what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night—you have to listen to them. You have to ask questions in a systematic, empathetic, informed, curiously humble way that takes into account cultural sensitivities and best practices in human-centered research. We can help you do that. We talk to people every day from a place that is neutral, that is open, nonjudgmental, curious, and also methodologically sound and rigorous.
Our expertise is in qualitative and quantitative research. It’s what we geek out on. My PhD is in Survey Methodology, and our whole team is really skilled at the art and science of designing a study; asking the right people the right questions in the right way; and analyzing and synthesizing what they tell us. But what we really do is give people (regular people, all kinds of people) a voice and an opportunity to have their opinions heard and taken into account. Organizations who work with us get to be the brand that really speaks to their customers, or the organization that inspires loyalty from its employees, because it listens to them and gets them.