Episode 41 : Listen and They’ll Tell You Everything

by Ian

in Interview, Motivation, Podcast

Genuine listening is the key to their confidence

It’s not what they say but the way you listen, that helps people to share the deepest parts of themselves.

Portrait of Tommy Dorsey

Listen in wonder to what is told

We often think we listen… but do we?
Are we really listening or are we just taking turns to speak?

In a recorded conversation we’re away from the distractions of other things as we’re on task, with a job to do. There are two important parts of any conversation, speaking and listening. When you’re recording someone their role is to speak and your role is to listen. Obvious, yes! But I don’t mean listen I mean – “LISTEN!”

Creating confidence and connection are the first things needed for someone to feel relaxed enough to open up and reveal the more interesting  parts of their Life Story.

When recording someone it’s not our role to speak. Sure, we have a role to engage from time to time, to ask a pertinent question, add a little context to the story or even add some of our self to help the conversation flow but our primary role is to help them express themselves and speak their story. Our roll is to stay attentive and to listen.

Get active – Listen

Unlike speaking which is obviously an active task, listening which appears passive is a very active task, albeit in a different style.

Listening can be a task that requires great effort or it can be a sheer indulgence with no effort. Where you’re simply swept away with the stories being told. Compare for a moment listening to a boring lecture versus an amusing and skillful storyteller. Your active in ways you don’t realise when really listening.

Proving to them and yourself that you’re listening

As a great listener, when someone speaks to you they know you are hearing and understanding them, that you care what is being said and therefore you care about them. What greater compliment can you pay than show that. Once realised,  they start to open up and build on their confidence to express themselves more.  Only then will they share those amazing stories with you. This can’t be faked, you really do have to listen, care and respond genuinely. There are many places during a conversation, due to interruptions where you’ll be caught out if you don’t.

Have you had the experience where you’ve been talking and the conversation has been interrupted?
Then on returning the other person has no interest at all in continuing to hear what you had to say. Possibly they’ve even forgotten what you were saying or even the topic. Doing this to the person your recording, is like saying, “I’m only going through the ropes here and I don’t really care what you have to say.”

To prove to them and yourself, that you’re listening, are you able to remember, quote and recommence a conversation that’s been interrupted, at any time?

What you say in that one act is “I care so much about what you say, that despite the interruption, I remember what you said enough to ask you to continue, as I want to hear more of what you have to say.” Anyone would be complimented by that level of attention and with that sign of interest their confidence increases and they continue to open up.

Attitude to good listening

Even if you’re unsure how to listen well, there are a few guidelines that you should keep in mind.

  • Make a conscious choice to find the topic useful and interesting
  • Listen with a purpose and expectation of what you hope to hear
  • Maintain an open mind
  • An enquiring attitude will maintain an interest
  • Desire to learn and have fun

The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening”. This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being expressed.

Active Listening

Active listening is about you hearing and understanding the other person and they know it.

Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge what they say. Notice the non-verbal signals as part of what they are saying.

  • Look at the speaker directly.
  • Direct your attention to what they say
  • Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
  • Avoid external distractions
  • Observe the non-verbal signals

Show you’re listening by using non-verbal cues.

  • Nodding
  • Smile and use other facial expressions.
  • Face them with an open posture.
  • Use small verbal comments like yes, mmmm and uh huh.

Expressing what you thought they said or playing devils advocate in a way of digging deeper to help draw them out. This shows that you were listening to understand but maybe need clarification. This also shows that you’re interested and would like to go deeper into their knowledge/experience.

  • Mention what you understand, but could it mean something else? As a means of expanding the information
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points
  • Mention that “Some people would think that…”, to provoke a response from them

Defer judgment, opinion and desire to assist. Your role is to encourage their opinion. Your views are irrellivant and don’t add to their story but only breaks up what they’re saying and could cause them to feel judged and want to shut down or argue. If you’re not sure about some points offer feedback rather than opinion.

  • Allow them to finish each story before adding additional information or questions
  • Don’t interrupt with arguments
  • Even if you don’t agree, respect their opinion as being valid for them
  • It’s their story. If you must engage with them there is always time later after the recording is completed

Active listening is about showing that you’re listening. Respond appropriately were necessary to help then know that you’re still fully engaged in listening  and find what they say of value.

  • Comment to them based on what you find interesting or has been said
  • Engage with them showing that you are interested but have no opinion
  • Respect them as you would like to be shown if the rolls were reversed

As a good listener you will not just hear what is being said but will also understand the reasons. Then with empathy you can ask a probing question referring to what was said, in order to dig into what may be the actual reasons for the story.


During the general conversations you have, take the time to practice some of these attitudes. Maybe it could be a conversation that is underway or you may start it by asking a specific open ended question that provokes a full response.

  • Concentrate on what is said at all times
  • If the conversation is interrupted test to see if you know where to pick it back up
  • Find the gem that intrigues you and ask more about it
  • Show that your listening using non-verbal cues
  • Use techniques of questions and response to draw more out of them

What conversations do you remember that engaged you because of how intensely they listened? Let us know what they do in the comments below.

Interesting Links from this Post

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Music is from

Ştipski Köçek (mp3)
from “Balkanatolia”
(Baykus Music)

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Nick Rixen Quartet
“Black & White” (mp3)
from “Points of View”
(Art of Life Records)

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More On This Album

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