A Two-Step Formula to Better Listening

Paul Barton Communications Listening Skills

Communication is, by definition, a two-way process and listening is a crucial skill to being successful in your business and your personal life. As internal communication professionals, we need to be able listen well when communicating with internal clients and organizational leaders, and they need to know that they were heard.

Interested vs. Interesting: Between talking and listening, the latter is more difficult and more important. Many of us don’t listen to understand; we listen to be understood. Presentation coach Pam Chambers points out that in networking situations we don’t need to be interesting, we need to be the most interested person in the room.

In my Speak Up and Stand Out workshop, we spend the first hour focusing on enhancing active listening skills. Being a good listener allows you to be a better communicator and it certainly makes you stand out from those who don’t listen.

To be a better listener, try this simple cyclical formula:

  1. Ask for more information. “So, tell me more about that.”
  2. Clarify or rephrase what you heard. “Wow. That’s really cool! So you [rephrase what you were just told].”

Asking for more information uncovers details that are often crucial to understanding. Clarifying proves you were listening and ensures you got it right.

For problem resolution, we repeat the two steps and add a third. It goes like this:

  1. Ask for more information. “So, tell me more about that.”
  2. Clarify or rephrase what you heard. “So, if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying [rephrase what you were just told].”
  3. “So what if we tried [insert solution]. Would that work for you?”

Getting agreement is the goal. But if you don’t, the cycle continues. “So tell me more about why that doesn’t work for you?” … “Oh, I see. That’s doesn’t work for you because [rephrase what you were just told].” “So how about instead we [insert solution]. Would that work for you?” And so on. Check out this video to see this formula in action: The Angry Patient.

Sometimes people just want to be heard, as illustrated in this hilarious video: It’s Not About the Nail.

Some people are better listeners than others. Some, like me, have to work at it. But the good news is, with a simple formula and a lot of practice, you can become a better listener and thus become a better communicator.

Give the formulas a try and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

Paul Barton Communications Listening Model



1 Comment

Judith Jones

about 6 years ago

Good tips! I attend a professional networking meeting once a month, and I find that your suggestions help me connect with more people. Thanks!

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