The Optimum You

Active Listening – Duncan Christie-Miller


How many times have you been introduced to someone – and immediately forgotten their name?

How many times have you had to ask for some information to be repeated – as you had not grasped it the first time?

How many times have you offered ‘that’s correct’ or ’really?’ even though you are not quite sure exactly what has been said.

We are all bad at listening. So, here are a few ideas how to be brilliant at ACTIVE LISTENING

Active listening

Please either imagine that you are holding a glass – or do it for real – now gently rub your hand over the rim. Why?

The way to become a brilliant listener is to use the words GLASS RIMS as your memory maker and guide. Here’s how:



G : Give encouragement. Say ‘that’s interesting’ – and mean it. Look at the speaker, nod and smile. Or offer ‘I don’t believe it’, ‘he didn’t!?’

L   : Listen to the CONTENT as much – if not more – than the delivery. There are very few people who have something brilliant to say and say it brilliantly. Too often great content is marred by bad delivery. If you are either annoyed or otherwise distracted by the way it is being said, you will not absorb the contents. Perhaps, BJ could learn this?

A : Ask sequential questions. Much conversation consists of story-telling. So – encourage the story teller by asking: ’what happened next?’ ‘And did that develop as you suggest?’

S : Summarise. Say ‘I think I understand – let me summarise what you have just said’. By doing this, the speaker now knows you have been listening and is encouraged to offer more. You now know that you DO understand what has been said – a win all round. Summarising is a major advantage – often for the Chair – in meetings.

S : Silence. Excellent listeners use Silences to their advantage. Just keep quiet and the speaker will offer some more information – often something that they might have been reluctant to express at first. By the way, most people cannot tolerate a silence longer than seven seconds before they feel obliged to give you more.


R : Really listen. Listening is hard work. Just recall how easily the car radio just seems to fade away and you miss that important announcement. Or your partner is in the adjoining room and you almost hear what is being said but not quite. Focus and concentrate – or get your ears syringed. Or both.

I : Interrupt : NEVER. Most people say what is important at the end of their sentences. So, let them get to the end. You are not a mind reader and cannot forecast what is finally going to emerge. Also, many people have a slight speech impediment and they are struggling to get it all out. Let them finish.

M : Make notes. Good listeners are able to make immediate notes – or even make notes while the speaker is on broadcast. Even a one-word nudge reminder will make you a better listener.

S : Smile! Nobody wants to speak to a bear with a sore head. Make yourself available and amenable and just see how easy it is for others to communicate with you. And for you to be a brilliant listener.


I would imagine that all of us would like to be better listeners. So – from now on, whenever you pick up a glass – even the one with your teeth in it or at a drinks party – look at the GLASS RIMS and you will be a much better listener.

All Rights Reserved © Duncan Christie-Miller