How to show you’re listening (video transcript)

Very early in my career, I met a manager who’d immigrated from China. We were doing a session about listening when he jumped up, took my marker, and went to the flip chart. On it, he drew the Chinese character for the word listen. He showed me that it includes, not only the character for the ear, but also for the eyes and the heart.

Since then, I’ve realized that so few people listen with all three. Here are the right words to say, to show you’re listening.

First, show you’re listening at the top level, check in the facts. You can say things like this:

  • “That’s interesting. Tell me more about that.”
  • “I’m hearing two different issues in what you’re saying. Am I hearing you correctly?”
  • “You use the word resources. What do you mean when you say resources?”

Those are some facts questions.

The next level, you have to get at the emotions. Say something like this:

  • “You used the word critical several times in your presentation. I’m sensing you feel really strongly about this issue.”
  • “Sometimes, you can comment on things that you’ve noticed, not necessarily that you’ve heard. As you were talking, your voice got quieter and quieter. How are you feeling about this issue?”
  • “I’m really interested in what you didn’t say when you were just talking. What should I infer from that?”

The third level is, uncovering values and beliefs in the stuff that’s really underneath what they’re saying. And here, you have to make some hypotheses:

  • “When you said that we shouldn’t trust marketing, I sense there was more of a story here. What’s this triggering for you?”
  • “I’m hearing several reasons why you think we shouldn’t proceed. What do you see as the risks of going this way?”
  • “It feels like this is at odds with how you think things should work. What do you think is really important to protect, here?”

Either way, you need to show you’re listening to facts, to emotions, and also to the values and beliefs, underlying what people say.

Those are the right words to say, to show you’re listening.

More on this

Why You Think You’re Listening, but You’re Not

Liane’s Back to Basics Listening Drill

Tips to improve the connection when you communicate