Three Ways to Listen. Remember the Three Monkeys?

three ways to listenTHREE WAYS TO LISTEN

You remember the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.  Well, this reminds us to three ways to listen: see to reveal, hear to reveal and speak to reveal.

 See To Reveal or Listen With Your Eyes

When you see the person who is speaking, the attendant facial expressions often clarify what you hear. On the other hand, you’ve probably noticed when you are conversing over the phone, that it’s easy to unintentionally talk over the person on the other end.  When the speaker is kidding, you can’t see the twinkling eyes that cue you that the statement is meant as a joke.  Likewise, when the speaker is trying to choke back tears, you miss the strong feeling behind the message.

When you have the opportunity to converse face-to-face, pay attention to the facial expressions, as well as other signals that can be sent by the stance or gesture and posture.  If you think listening means only hearing words, you ignore the rich part of the message that comes to you non-verbally. See what you hear.  See what is revealed.

 Hear to Reveal or Listen With Your Ears

This sounds obvious, but it’s actually problematic.  Often we hear but don’t listen.  Perhaps background noise inhibits our ability to hear.  Sometimes we hear but we let our minds wander, so we may hear without listening. Sometimes, we psychologically block out messages that we find uncomfortable. We are particularly guilty of hearing words but not the feelings behind the words. We miss the vocal tones and feelings the words express. See how much is revealed when you hear both words and feelings.

Speak to Reveal or Listen With Your Mouth

Listen with your mouth? Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?  Weren’t you told to “shut your mouth and listen?” Psychologists Dr. Carl Rogers and Dr. Thomas Gordon developed the concept of “active listening.” That means that after we listen, we respond with words from our mouth that assure the speaker that we understood. It usually encourages the speaker to say more.

Sometimes the words are simple, like “I see,” “Oh,” or “That’s interesting.”  Using our mouths can further the “art of listening” by asking a clarifying question: “Are you saying that…?” or “I think you’re saying . . ., is that right?” It is most powerful when we use our mouths to let the speaker know we’ve heard the feelings behind the words (sometimes only communicated non-verbally), as in “That’s scary, isn’t it?” or “I sense that your uncomfortable about this assignment.”  Speak to the speaker and reveal what you have heard.

That’s it for today.  Try these ideas and give us YOUR thoughts.

Carolyn and John

Why Is A No No

Blog image - Why is "WHY?" a No-No?The Word WHY Is A No No

As many of our readers know, John leads Sing-Alongs for Alzheimer’s Patients, in addition to his writing and training in communication. In a recent conversation he experienced by the word WHY is a no no.

While visiting with some friends from out of town, John described the Sing-Alongs he does.  He commented that the word has gotten around among the Activity Directors of the area dementia care facilities.  That has resulted in him being invited to do Sing-Alongs, resulting in his becoming quite busy, doing at least two or three Sing-Alongs each week.

After listening inquisitively, our friend looked John straight in the eyes and said, “John, why do you do this?”

I could see that John was taken aback.  He told me later that he felt somehow “invaded.”  He’s happy to talk about what he does and the impact that music has on dementia patients.  And the answer to her question was no secret, so why did he feel invaded?

The word “why” can do that.  But why?  It’s probably because it’s a “close ended” question.  Closed questions leave the person queried with no where to go but to respond directly.  The person tends to feel like he is on the witness stand being interrogated and, thus, feels defensive and often acts defensively.

I’m sure the questioner thought that her question was showing interest John’s work.  But, in fact, a question like this tends to interfere with the flow of conversation and divert interest to the questioner, rather than to the other party.

He will feel called upon to answer but may not have time to give a thoughtful answer.  It is likely to be curt and to the point.

To open up the topic, an alternative process might be to say, “Tell me what has prompted you to do this kind of work,” or “I’d be interested to know what led you to do this kind of work.”  These sort of open-ended questions enable the person queried to take command of the conversation.  It suggests that there may be many factors that led to the decision.  “Why?” implies an easy answer, leaving the queried person to feel obliged to give a short answer, when the answer may be quite complex, probably more interesting.  It will, no doubt, prompt more conversation and provide a great way to learn about each other and the subject at hand.

Have you had this experience?  Tell us about it.

That’s it for now.

~ Carolyn and John

Training at the AAHA Conference


We have just returned from Phoenix, where we autographed our book, Communication Case Studies: Building Interpersonal Skills in the Veterinary Practice.John Meyer and Carolyn Shadle at bookstore at AAHA Conference

We also had the pleasure of presenting an interactive workshop at the annual conference of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Our workshop centered around a case we authored entitled “Clinic Culture Collapse.”  It featured an interview between the clinic owner and his newly hired DVM as lead vet and manager.  Things weren’t going too well, so the 100+ participants, working in groups of 4-6, offered suggestions to turn the clinic culture around.

Other pleasures for us were meeting with two of the “experts” who contributed to the cases in our book, Communication Case Studies: Building Interpersonal Skills in the Veterinary Practice.

John Meyer and Carolyn Shadle with Wendy Myers at AAHA ConferenceWendy Myers is President of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians and Partner with Animal Hospital Specialty Center in the Denver area.  Each month she offers webinars for vets.  In June she will be addressing the strategies that will keep cat owners coming back every year. She’ll include check lists and scripts to recommend wellness diagnostics, tips and training on reminder systems, and ways to educate cat owners on the importance of testing.

Carolyn Shadle and John Meyer with Carin Smith at AAHA ConferenceCarin Smith, DVM, is the President of Smith Veterinary Consulting. In addition to the expert opinions she has offered on our cases, she has authored numerous books for veterinarians including Team Satisfaction Pays:Organizational Development for Practice Success.  She told us that she is currently repurposing her books for electronic delivery on Kindle and other e-readers.  Some of her expertise has focused on vet careers. With that in mind, she told us to watch for an AVMA workforce study coming out next month.

(To learn more about our training that addresses the veterinary practice, go to

Four Fast Talkers

Blog image with Fast Talkers


Did you see the February issue of Fast Company magazine? It’s the one that says “SPEAK UP!”  on the front cover and  “LISTEN UP” on the back.  As I mentioned in my last blog, it’s packed with great advice.  We thought we’d unpack it a bit for you and introduce you to four fast talkers.

In the section on how to “interrupt a fast talker” the writer presents four scenarios.  Here are the writer’s recommendations and my comments.

1.  The caffeinated coworker. FAST COMPANY recommends “Wait, wait. Slow down.”   That’s a statement that will surely affirm the speaker.

 If said in a light and friendly way, your coworker will be glad to slow down  – and keep talking.  It is, however, technically, a “You-statement” (in which you are TELLING the speaker how to talk).  Lest your speaker be a bit touchy, I’d recommend an “I-statement in which you own the responsibility of listening.  Something like “I want to get it all but I can’t keep up with you.”  Then, “Can you slow down a bit?”

2.  A boss going through instructions too fast.  “This is really interesting, but I’m not quite following.  This is my fault,” is the FAST COMPANY recommendation – modest and apologetic.

“I’m not quite following” is a good “I-statement,” and it sure beats, “You’re going too fast.”  I’m not sure, however, you need to be self-deprecating.  I’d omit “This is my fault.”  It’s probably NOT your fault, so why say so?  Your interest in the subject shows the kind of respect you need to render to your boss, and let’s hope that part is true!

3.  A colleague leading a fast-moving group discussion. FAST COMPANY says, ‘Raise your hand.’  This is a time-honored non-verbal way of saying, “’I’m here and willing to participate.”

It surely beats interrupting or talking over your colleague.  Be sensitive of your timing, however.  Even a raised hand too soon or too often can be an affront to the person who has the floor.  Your colleague may think that you think that you have something more important to interject and would take the floor away.

4.  An executive giving a companywide presentation. FAST COMPANY says, “Lean forward with a puzzled facial expression.”  That’s a great non-verbal message.

Leaning forward is always a sign of interest.  And the facial expression is a wonderful way to convey a thought.  It signals that the speaker should slow down and let you absorb the material.  A fast-talking speaker may not be able to slow down but at least will probably repeat or elaborate to help you understand the message.

That’s it for now.  Tell us about fast talkers in your workplace.

~ Carolyn

Better Banter: Yes, and…

image for blog, Yes, andBetter Banter: Yes, and…

Did you see the February issue of Fast Company magazine? One of the magazine’s covers says “SPEAK UP!”  The other cover says “Listen up!”  The whole issue is packed with great advice related to communication.  It’s so dense, however, we thought we’d unpack it a bit for you.

Let’s start with “Better Banter.”  That’s the by-line of one piece in which Will and Kevin Hines of the Upright Citizens Brigade theater say that one way to achieve “better banter” is to respond to your colleague with “Yes, and….”

You may have discovered that “Yes, and….” instead of “Yes, but….”  keeps the conversation going.  It indicates that you have heard what your colleague has to say and would like to expand on the idea.

“Yes, and….” is most effective when you are truly adding to the topic and NOT CHANGING THE SUBJECT.  Stay on topic.  Find out more about your colleague’s idea.  Ask leading questions that are open-ended.  For example, avoid the yes-no questions like, “Did you get that idea from your previous place of employment?”  Instead ask, “How did that idea work when you tried it before?

image for blog, Yes, and...Listening“Yes, but….” prepares your colleague for an argument.  It suggests that you’re not entirely pleased with the idea or believe there are flaws in the idea.

Maybe, however, you need to hear more.  Don’t be the person who is always waiting for the other person to take a breath, so you can inject what YOU want to discuss.  Go with the flow.  Keep the conversation going.

What do you think?  Tell us of your experience.

That’s it for now.