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Volume 8  Number 4   |  April 2018

Listen Up

I’ve found that in many instances a client will solve his or her own problem by talking it through while I simply listen. I may be asked to reaffirm or validate the wisdom of the solution, but the other person has engaged in some nifty self-therapy in the meantime.

I’m often told that I’m an excellent problem solver in these discussions! But all I’ve really done is listen without interrupting or even trying to interpret.

Here are the keys:

• Never feel that you’re not valuable if you’re not actively contributing.

• Practice “active listening” (see below).

• Never cut-off or interrupt the other person.

• Stop trying to prove how smart you are.

• Stop assuming the other person can’t come up with the answer.

Many people have to “talk through” their issues. In effect, they are articulating their cognitive process. Be patient. Most doctors (at least, good doctors) will tell you that if you give the patient enough time, he or she will tell you exactly what’s wrong with them and why. The problem is that a lot of doctors are over-eager to diagnose and prescribe without listening adequately.

Active Listening

Here are the three major techniques to undertake “active listening”:

  1. Summarize and paraphrase occasionally. Example: “I hear you saying that your turnover is basically with just two departments, is that accurate?
  2. Practice small indicators that demonstrate your attention. These include direct eye contact, nodding of the head, smiling or showing concern, the words, “I see,” “Oh,” “Really?”, and others.
  3. Use the “echo technique.” Just repeat the last word said and the other person will fill the vacuum. Example: The other person says, “We’re having trouble with the union contract.” And you simply say, “Contract?” The other person will continue, “Yes, and this is the first year it’s so complex.” (And then you say, “Complex?”) Try this immediately, it always works.


When the other person seems to stop, wait two seconds before speaking to ensure they’re really stopping. If they begin again, remain silent. If you practice careful listening you’ll be seen as a superb coach.

I do it so well I’m often called “a brilliant conversationalist”!

© Alan Weiss 2018

Don’t miss the Million Dollar Consulting® Convention in Boston, April 18-20. Join 150 colleagues from around the world, attend the general sessions with Suzanne Bates, Chip Bell, Dorie Clark, and me—as well as a dozen concurrent sessions. There's no other conference like it in the world.

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