There I was about ready to lose it emotionally. I could feel my brain fighting to regain a sense of calm while the “uncalm” part was winning. Why? Because less than one hour ago, Andrea had told me exactly how she would like me to install the cedar trim for the door. Now, the cedar boards were cut and nailed into place.

But it didn’t go so well!

When the kids and I proudly showed her our work, she exclaimed, “Why did you take the original white trim off?”

“WHAT?! Are you crazy? You just said to take OFF the white trim!” We literally argued for about 10 minutes over what she actually said and what I heard.

Oh! If only I had listened to my own advice about listening.

Finally, she was gracious to end it and say, “It looks good this way.” She is an amazing wife and I am learning to listen better. It is a journey, not a destination.

Listen is key to make friends

Listening will define your relationships, both professionally and personally. Ignore it to your peril or your success. Being a Great Friend requires great listening. The last two podcasts and blogs were about listening and clarifying your goals and thoughts. Today, is about knowing how YOU listen.

The third key: Know how you listen.

You have a listening style and a personal listening technique. It is either helping or hurting you. Once you realize it is hurting you, you can change it. If it is helping you, then keep doing it!

What type of Listener are you?
Here are six types of poor listeners from Bernard T. Ferrarri, in Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All. Which one do you resonate with?
1.   the Opinionator (squelches ideas that don’t match his own; listens only to reload his rebuttal to others’ input)
2.   the Grouch (everyone else’s ideas are wrong)
3.   the Preambler (windy lead-ins, self-serving, questions are simply stealth speeches)
4.   the Perseverator (talks a lot but doesn’t say much; doesn’t advance the conversation)
5.   the Answer Man/Woman (spouts solution before there is even a consensus of what the challenge might be; desperately eager to impress)
6.   the Pretender (not really interested in what you have to say; feigns engagement; may have already made up his mind or just couldn’t care less)

The wise person realizes how they negatively listen and works to stop it. I am living proof you can control your quantity of words and listen better. I promise: it pays off!

Saying words to listen:
1.    Rephrase a key point they made and add little to nothing. For example, “The conference has asked you to be a speaker next year. Cool.”; “Your Grandma fell and is in the hospital. Sorry.”
2.   Ask a real question to understand. A trick is to add the question “Why?” For example, “Why do you want to switch jobs?” (It is important that you ask to bless them, not to judge them.)
3.   Say “Thank you”. When they have shared their feelings or thoughts, thoughtfully tell them: “Thanks for sharing that with me.” When you treat their words like a gift they will know that you treasure their vulnerability.
What about body posture? Is it helping or hurting you? (#4 is Doug’s favorite!)
1.    Eye contact: While filming a video, the producer said to me that it is proven if you look to the side and not into the camera, people assume you are lying and are not trust-worthy. This is even more real in person. Looking someone in the eye is an art. Practice it and you will find that good eye contact will carry you a long way.
2.   Shoulders and hips (and belly button): Check to see where your belly button is pointed. Yeah, belly button. It points to what you are interested in. If it is aimed at the door, your posture screams, “I want out of here!” If it points toward them, it is saying, “I am present and want to be here.”
3.   Hands: Are you calm or nervously spinning a pen? Either you want to be distracted and leave, or you are absorbed in the conversation.
4.   Arm: Here is a SUPER trick I learned from Bob Goff. If you are sitting down, put your hands on your knees with your palms pointed up. That posture puts you into a non-judgmental listening mode. It works for me. If your arms are crossed, like your mother used to do when she was mad, it says, I am mad or I am closed to what you are saying. Having your arms at your side and relaxed implies, “I am relaxed and open to what you are saying.” (Andrea personally struggles with this one because crossed arms keep her warm!)

Bonus: Do NOT take your phone out of your pocket. Nothing communicates that you don’t care, like looking at your phone. Many of us now have the habit of checking our phones every 10 minutes, with every ring, or beep, and don’t even realize we are doing it. Focus on them. My kids danced the other day when I told them I was going to put the phone away for 48 hours. In fact, they hid the phone so I would be fully present. Remember, your phone is your tool, you are not it’s slave.

Work on one of these at a time like building a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger you will become.

What about you? If you could change one aspect of your listening skills, what would it be? Please share it below as an encouragement to others.

Here is the door trim photo Andrea mentioned.  Doesn’t it look much nicer WITHOUT the extra white trim.  :)

Those are some amazing kids if you ask me.

Those are some amazing kids if you ask me.


  1. Michael Spiger says:

    Mom and I enjoyed your latest pod cast! Some thoughts: Old habits die hard…I am very attentive to my phone because I was always on call and really still feel like I am.
    In med school, we were taught not to ask “why” but to say “tell me the reason for how you feel” or something like that. Perhaps it gives the person a little more direction in how to answer. And it seems gentler.

    Right now I’m sitting here with my hands on my knees and my palms up….

    Good night
    Love you ,

    • It can be tricky to use the word, “why”. We often use it to prove our point or show where they are wrong. For ease of remembering, what to say, I have found “why” the easiest.

      Your suggestion of “Tell me the reason for how you feel”, would clearly communicate you are listening and care. Good comment.

      Hope tonight goes well for you and your throat feels better.


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