A Damn Good Listening To

“A dammed good listening to”

The alternative to a dammed good talking to, which we get all too often!!

One of the key challenges anyone faces today in communication is getting listened to. Many people are just so wrapped up with their own environment, their own objectives and their own feelings that they don’t seem to have the time to listen properly. This can lead to problems in our relationships and how we achieve important things together.

The key is listening and being listened to…

People who feel listened to will tend to value the relationship more greatly. As customers they will be more open to our good services, as staff they will be more inclined to follow our leadership and in other relationships our personal value increases and people will tend to speak more highly of us.

All good reasons for you to spend more time and effort listening. Think how you feel when someone does it for you, do you feel more worthwhile and your opinions more valid, even when they are not necessarily agreed with? Do they go up in your estimations? Do you feel more inclined to listen to what they have to say? I believe the answer is yes, and what is that worth?

So are you a good listener? Many of us think listening is the other half of talking, you speak I listen, I speak you listen…but the reality may be closer to….we wait to speak, rehearse our response, mentally doodle and more often than not interrupt when we have heard enough. What can we do to improve and become the kind of listener we would truly respond to ourselves?

Here are a couple of tips; taken from a short publication (you can download the full version on our website www.thediff.co.uk).


EARS simply stands for Encouraging, Asking, Reflecting and Summarising.

The ‘EARS’ behaviours are:

Encouraging – head nods, verbal grunts, eye contact and smiling
(Show you are listening)

Asking – relevant, open or closed questions in response to what your are hearing

Reflecting – mirroring or even ‘parrot phrasing’ exactly what has been said and often what is not said, but is communicated non-verbally (e.g. saying “yes” to a requested deadline, but looking concerned at the same time – this may be an indication that it isn’t a 100% yes answer and something may yet go wrong)

Summarising – restating the key items of the conversation so far, to ensure we both have a clear understanding of the key facts.

It is well known, that, when we communicate we do so with our words (verbal), our tone of voice (vocal), and our body language (visual). These are known as the 3 V’s.

One anthropologist (R. Birdwhistell) stated that, ”no more than 35% of the social meaning of a conversation is carried by the words”. Other research has identified that the initial impact of our communication is portioned out between the 3 V’s: Verbal 7%, Vocal 38%, and Visual 55% (these numbers are sometimes disputed, but seem to have very strong face validity when presented to most people in my experience)

Therefore, when we listen we need to pay attention to more than the 7% words. Our ears and eyes especially gain invaluable information from the other 93%, as long as we pay attention. Often what is not being said comes through and allows us to gain deeper rapport by showing that we understand the whole message, which is extremely powerful to the development of the relationship.


I was once told “we should accept the person and only work to change the behaviour”. When things aren’t working in a relationship, we will be far more successful in that relationship if our intention is to change behaviour not the person.

Often we assume they are saying or doing something for a particular motive, one that we have come up with perhaps? We may wonder, why would they do that? But we need to ‘step into their shoes’ and ask ourselves a better question, how? not why? How is what they have done or said possible? What motive lies behind and what would have to be true for them to have behaved in that way?

You will find this useful in many contexts, in setting objectives and reviewing results; when you are not getting the response you expect or need, in making presentations or training, where a person may be behaving like a ‘difficult person’, or even in getting your boss to listen to you and they seem disinterested. Often the process of stepping into their shoes, helps you to gain a new perspective on what you have said, what might be going on for them and how they might possibly interpret it in the way, it seems they are right now. In taking responsibility for your communication, you have greater opportunities for being fully understood.

So… Ask yourself… what is their perspective? How does this seem to them?