3 Ways to Slow Down and Listen

Good listening and feedback skills are essential to any manager’s success—but they are in short supply these days, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies. With today’s managers struggling to find the time required to get their own jobs done, it’s easy to move listening and providing feedback to the back burner.

To help managers learn to slow down and focus on developing their people to be successful over time, Halsey recommends a three-step EAR model—Explore, Acknowledge, and Respond. The magic in this process is remembering to take the time for fully exploring the issue raised by a direct report by asking clarifying questions, then acknowledging what is being said and the emotion behind it, before going on to the third step of responding.

  • Explore—ask open-ended questions such as “Can you tell me more about that?” and “How do you think that will go?” and “What does that really mean?”
  • Acknowledge—respond with comments such as “You must be feeling …” or “So, if I’m hearing you correctly, what you’re saying is ….”
  • Respond—now that you have a good understanding of the direct report’s point of view, you can carefully move forward with a possible response.

As Halsey explains, “Typically, when people are trying to listen to someone else, it is hard to resist jumping right to responding to solve the problem. Better listeners will stop and take an extra minute to make sure they really understand the situation before responding.”

Are your manager’s missing this important ingredient in creating stronger relationships at work?  To learn more about the importance of slowing down to address the people side of getting work done, be sure to read Take the Time to Listen and Provide Feedback in this month’s Ignite! newsletter.  Also be sure to check out a free webinar Halsey will be conducting on September 23, The Manager’s Tool Kit, Part One: Listening and Feedback where Halsey will share additional tips and strategies for improving dialogue between managers and direct reports.

5 thoughts on “3 Ways to Slow Down and Listen

  1. This can be tough- even for those that are not “talkers”. Seems everyone has an opinion about everything and our time is limited. It can be hard to recognize that it’s okay to not get all our points across in one short conversation. If we can become better listeners- we can grow. Great post!

  2. A great post. One skill we need when listening is not to make assumptions and not make snap judgment if something is unfamiliar to us. I’ve seen entire conversations stopped when this happens and everything that follows is just white noise.

  3. I love this ancronym. Often many people are trying their best to get their points across at one time that important aspects are lost. Explore, acknowledge, and respond is a great tool to use and to teach others to fully understand what is being conveyed.

    • Hi Alfie–thanks for your question. Yes, the EAR model works well in a call center setting in two key areas. One, when talking with customers. Explore, Acknowledge, and Respond is a classic way of dealing with customer issues and is a part of most customer service training. The EAR model also works well during interpersonal communication–for example, talking with your boss or a peer. Give it a try. I think you’ll find it makes all communication better!

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