excerpt has been taken from the new book as part of Interpersonal Edge
by Daneen Skube, Ph.D. It is published by Hay House (March 2006) and available
all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com
Getting People to Listen to You
"I know you believe you understand what you think I said,
but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
As you become a good listener, youll begin to hear information that
others arent admitting or even aware of. If you try to repeat back
these denied statements, people may do a frightened-porcupine imitation
and start throwing quills. Sometimes you might be wrong about what you
heard, but thats the point of paraphrasing. Go back and ask the
speaker to continue providing information so that you can clarify the
If the person is becoming uncomfortable as you paraphrase, dont
try to nail them on admitting the truth. Youll know that youve
learned something valuable that the speaker isnt ready to digest.
Your new information will help you connect with and influence the person.
Just murmur something that lets them off the hook like, "Well, I
might not understand what youre saying," or "This might
not be the best time to talk." Make it clear that youre open
to resuming the conversation whenever they want.
Lord, Dont Let
Me Be Misunderstood
As you see how well your listening skills are working, youll also
be eager to ask others to paraphrase you. If youre having a conflict,
giving directions, or are unsure how your words are being interpreted,
simply ask to have your words repeated back. Its important to avoid
giving the impression that you think the other person is slow witted.
You can say, "Im not sure Im being clear. Can you tell
me what youre hearing?" or "What are you hearing me say?"
These words let people know that youre asking for help, not criticizing
their listening skills.
For example, in an executive-coaching session, I was trying to tell my
client Brad how he could have handled a performance appraisal more effectively.
The more we talked, the more tense he became. I finally stopped and asked
him, "What are you hearing me say?" He burst out, "I think
you believe I really blew this appraisal, and I dont think you appreciate
that Ive improved the way I work with this employee."
I asked Brad to expand on his thoughts about my perceived criticism and
listened. I then told him I believed hed done a great job. I specifically
acknowledged the ways in which hed improved his communication skills.
I added that since he wanted to learn ways to motivate this employee,
hed asked me to point out options. Because I took the time to ask
Brad what he was hearing, I was able to make it clear that I didnt
think he was inadequate. He was then able to relax, stop hearing criticism,
and learn new skills.
Theres another magical benefit to skilled paraphrasing that encourages
people to listen to you. You can actually shift the speakers perception
of what they said. When people misunderstand you or think youre
out to get them, they can temporarily perceive you negatively and conveniently
forget any past instances where you were helpful. They use words such
as always or never, and see your past with them through a negative lens.
For instance, your employee doesnt like a training seminar she attended.
She comes back and says, "You always waste my time by sending me
to seminars that never have anything to do with my job. Since Ive
been hired, you just give me busywork and dont let me get ahead."
But you notice that shes forgotten anything youve done that
was helpful and simply sees you as "mean" throughout your shared
Once youre comfortable with using Basic and Advanced Ears, try employing
the following two tools during conflicts to remind others that you wear
a gray hat, not a black or white one.
Toolkit for Shifting Perceptions
1. Paraphrase a problem in the past tense. For
example, your boss tells you that she doesnt believe that youre
able to handle an important account. When you paraphrase, say something
like, "So it sounds like in the past you have felt I couldnt
handle this account well." By paraphrasing the problem in the past
tense, you make it clear that the future may be different. You put the
problems in the past and open up solutions for the future.
Read the example, and paraphrase the next two statements by putting them
in the past tense:
Example Statement: I procrastinate and rush through a project even when
I know the deadline is approaching.
Example Paraphrase: So it sounds like in the past youve procrastinated
and have had a problem with rushing through a project.
Statement: Ive had feedback from other employees that you arent
a team player and you dont help others get their work done.
Statement: I dont want to work with Zelda because she doesnt
follow through on her end of the project.
2. Paraphrase the problem and clarify that its
a partial truth rather than a whole truth. For example, when an
employee tells you that you never give him a raise, you can say, "So
your experience has been that Ive infrequently given you raises."
Paraphrasing a problem stressing the partial nature of a statement reminds
the speaker that few situations in life are truly "always" or
Read the following example, and paraphrase the problems from a whole truth
to a partial truth:
Example Statement: Youre always late to our meetings.
Example Paraphrase: It sounds like your experience is that Im frequently
late to our meetings.
Statement: You never get back to me with the information I request!
Statement: I always end up making the marketing phone calls because you
never get around to it!
An Example of Shifting Perceptions
Brenda, a supervisor, was meeting with Joan, a difficult employee who
was unhappy. "You never let me go to any workshops that advance my
career," Joan complained. Brenda remembered the toolkit for shifting
perceptions, and said, "So in the past you dont believe Ive
sent you to enough workshops that have been helpful to your career?"
Joan paused and had to admit that she had been sent to one or two workshops
that taught her some useful skills. As they continued to talk, the conversation
now shifted from blaming Brenda to Joan confessing that she really wanted
to attend a specific training seminar this year. Brenda ended up negotiating
higher productivity and fewer complaints from Joan in exchange for attending
Avoiding Arguments about Truth
A good listener points out underlying emotions and hidden agendas, then
shifts perceptions in order to open up possibilities for negotiation.
When you paraphrase people, you help them see that their own world is
only truth with a small "t" and not the Truth for everyone.
Were fond of believing that what we think should be universally
true, but two individuals arguing about whats true only serves to
generate unnecessary suffering. Instead, if people owned their thoughts,
feelings, and experiences, there would be much less conflict, perhaps
even less war. Owning our "Truth" means that we realize that
it may be ours alone, and other people may see the same issue quite differently
than we do.
I remember paraphrasing a friend one time, and every time I said, "So
it sounds like you think . . ." he kept responding, "No! Thats
not what I think. Thats the Truth!" However, as I kept paraphrasing
and using the pronoun you, my friend admitted that what he was saying
was true for him. It occurred to him as I paraphrased that maybe others
might be seeing the situation in another way.
Other people may not agree that its their opinion when you add the
word you. However, it will remind you that Truth is never a good argument
since "the truth" is always subjective. Theres my truth
and your truth and sometimes our truth. So youre wasting your breath
if youre trying to prove Truth.
Of course, there are times when you might get a great deal of agreement
on your truth if you take a public-opinion poll. But even in situations
where you could win a poll on your point of view, arguments about Truth
still dont work.
When I teach performance appraisals, I encourage managers to forget about
arguing Truth with employees. Nobody wins. Instead, state what you want
as your truth. For instance, most of us in the West will agree that employees
should be on time for work. Well, lets say you have a problem with
a tardy employee. If you state your truth rather than arguing the Truth,
you might say, "If you worked for another manager, punctuality might
not be a big deal, but its critical for me. If employees are on
time when they work with me, I trust them; when theyre late, I dont.
I realize that this is something not every employer would expect. You
have the right to work for another manager who doesnt care about
punctuality. However, if you want to work for me, youll have to
figure out how to be on time."
Youve now avoided the entire debate about whether or not what youre
saying is true and whether what you want is reasonable. Youve also
made the employee responsible for shaping up or moving on.
Men, Passion, and Listening
Men often have trouble being really heard by women or really hearing women
because most guys arent taught to express their feelings. I find
that my male clients have unique challenges in learning to use their new
listening skills to connect to the women they love. The way men are taught
not to have emotions in our culture was made obvious to me one hot summer
day as I watched a barefoot three-year-old boy and his father walking
along a hot sidewalk. The little boy was crying because his tender feet
were sizzling. The father kept saying to his son, "Quit crying and
stop acting like a girl!" Exasperated, the father finally stopped,
looked directly at the little boy, and told his son in a firm voice, "Knock
it off! Theres nothing wrong!" Perhaps you can see why it can
be very puzzling for women when we ask the men in our life whats
wrong and they say, "Nothing!"
Most women deeply crave being emotionally understood and understanding
the feelings of guys they find attractive. I remember when I first started
dating my husband, Bruce, I exclaimed in frustration on a fourth date,
"But I really want to know about your inner life." He answered
me (only half-jokingly), "What inner life?" Many men dont
realize that for women, a mans ability to express empathy (experiencing
how someone else feels) and reveal his own emotions is the essential foundation
for a passionate sexual connection.
Ive often had male clients who are considered "nice guys"
puzzle over why women fall head over heels for articulate guys who are
"bad boys." I explain to them that many women find emotional
expressiveness extremely seductive. Women want an emotional connection
so badly that they often dont look closely at men who romance them
with extraordinary listening. "Bad boys" dont follow most
rules, including the cultural idea that "men dont express feelings,"
so they end up getting womens attention. But you dont have
to be a bad boy to seduce your sweetheart.
If youre a guy who wants passion and attention from women, then
use the Advanced Ears tool to help develop your ability to express your
emotions. To make it easier to figure out what your woman is feeling,
the next time shes talking, think about how youd feel if you
were going through what shes explaining. Now paraphrase the emotions
she might feel by describing what youd feel. Keep in mind that a
paraphrase or amplification is a guess, so no one will sue you for being
wrong. Also realize that sometimes youll be right, and that it may
be a touchy issue shes in denial about. If this occurs, your honey
will at least realize on some level that you know the truth.
For example, your girlfriend might say, "So, darling, I was wondering
if you want to spend next Christmas with my family," when what shes
really wondering is whether you and she are a committed couple. If you
just dive into a decision about Christmas, youll miss what shes
actually trying to say. If you use Advanced Ears, you might reply, "So
it sounds like its important to you that the two of us spend Christmas
with your family? Can you tell me more?"
My husband jokes with me that men really do need a book of translation
for "women speak" because we say "Go!" when we mean
"Stay," along with so many other confusing messages. If you
use Advanced Ears, youll have that translation book that men keep
In this chapter youve learned a lot:
How to get people to listen to you by managing touchy issues many
of us deny
How to clarify misunderstandings
Ways to shift negative perceptions of yourself by others
Tools for avoiding useless arguments about Truth
Why listening is one of the sexiest activities a guy can engage
As you use your new tools to shift others perceptions, youll
find that many people wont believe that youre qualified to
change their point of view unless you can first demonstrate that you understand
how they see the world. As you listen intently, youll be surprised
to discover profound differences in how each of us perceives the same
issues. You may start to suspect that its not just that men and
women come from different planets, but that we all live in separate universes.
You may then begin wondering how to bridge these vast chasms of perceptions.
In the next chapter, youll find out how these unique personal worlds
develop as everyone grows up in different tribes (families). Youll
learn how to see these tribal differences, and communicate so that it
wont matter what universe someone else comes fromyoull
still know a language that will work . . . universally.