You can’t listen to others until you’ve listened to yourself first

My yoga teacher made a powerful comment in class yesterday.

She said, “As you listen to my instructions, BE SURE that you’re also listening to what your body is telling you as you get into the postures.”

Pretty cool, huh?

And now that I think about it, during yoga yesterday’s class I DO remember what my body was telling me:

“Scott, I can’t believe how many egg rolls you ate for lunch, you putz.”


LESSON LEARNED: Listening to others requires listening to yourself first.

That means observing. Becoming aware of the feelings and emotions that surface, but not adding evaluation or appraisal of the moment. Simply remaining alert to your own thoughts, acknowledging rising feelings. What are your listening triggers?

That means embracing. Calmly and objectively attending to your own internal experiences in a loving way. Holding these observations about yourself in unconditional positive regard. What is your body telling you right now?

That means responding. Not reacting, but responding to your own internal cues. Then, once you’ve listened to your body’s voice, you take responsibility for your thoughts, holding them in silent awareness and then gently returning to the moment. Are you able to acknowledge and return to the conversation?

Ah, your inner voice. The loudest sign in the world.

So, now that you understand the philosophy, the following four practices will equip you to effectively, empathetically and patiently listen to another person while simultaneously listen to yourself:

1. Assess your receptiveness. Before you get started with a conversation, honestly assess your ability and willingness to listen in that moment. Pay exquisite attention to yourself and ask:

(1) Is this a good time for me to listen?
(2) How much of my energy am I willing and able to give this person right now?
(3) What are my fears about communicating with this person?

Then, during the conversation, before interjecting, interrupting or blurting, consider questions like:

o Is this comment truthful?
o Is this comment necessary?
o Is this comment worthwhile?
o What can I say that will contribute?
o Is this comment a thought or an impulse?
o Is this comment improving on the silence?
o What can I say that will make a difference?
o Is this comment relevant to the other person’s experience?
o What, specifically will the other person gain from your contribution?

2. Know Your Triggers. Certain words offend you. Certain topics scare you. Certain issues make you feel sick to your stomach. That’s cool. Next time you have a few spare minutes, try this…

Make a list of your Top Five Listening Triggers are AND how you feel when you hear them. This self-knowledge exercise subconsciously prepares you to handle future reactions.

REMEMBER: Awareness is the first step towards mastery.

3. Note the distraction. As Yoda often said, “I feel a disturbance in the force…” That’s the attitude you most have. That you’re simply observing what’s going on. And that’s IT, for now. Anything beyond that becomes a distraction, as internal emotional activity often short-circuits the listening process.

So, should one of your inner triggers get set off, here’s what you do:

a. Breathe.
b. Be aware of what IS.
c. No judgments, no worries, no reactions.
d. No appraisals, no evaluations, no assigning value.
e. Make a note – physically or mentally – about your observation.
f. Quickly, yet gently return to the conversation.

.4 Articulate What’s Occurring. At the appropriate time, verbalize your observations. Say what you see. Share what you feel. Objectively offer non-threatening statements like:

a. Just now I felt…
b. I have a hunch that…
c. Now I am aware that…
d. As I listen to you, I feel…
e. My intuition tells me that…
f. In my gut, I’m asking the question…
g. When you said the word (x), the first thought that came to my mind was….

So, that’s the secret – listening to yourself first.

THAT MEANS: Assessing your receptiveness. Knowing your triggers. Noting the distractions. Articulating what’s occurring.

I challenge you to learn, know, live and BE these practices TODAY.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wolf down a few egg rolls before yoga class.

Are you listening to yourself first?

For my list called, “101 People (not) to Listen to,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

Grow Bigger Ears: Heart Listening

As a writer, it’s almost impossible for me to read a book, have a conversation or experience ANYTHING without writing something down.

What can I say? A writer writes. Always.

Ironically, while the ability to capture and catalog ideas and experiences has become my greatest asset as a writer, it’s also become my greatest weakness as a listener.

Especially in conversation. For example, when someone makes a profound comment, asks a killer question or juxtaposes words in a beautifully unexpected way, I become SO excited, SO energized and SO intent on capturing and processing that little nugget of truth … that I sometimes stop listening.

This reaction causes two problems:

1. You miss out on whatever is said next. Like when you’re at the movies with one of those annoying people who keeps asking you questions like, “Who’s that guy?” and “Why did she sleep with her sister’s fiancé?” and after explaining everything to them, you end up missing the next scene.
2. You neglect the opportunity to let the original idea TRULY resonate down to your core.

LESSON LEARNED: Listen with your heart, not your head.

See, everyone’s got their poison. Some vice or magnet that distracts their listening practice by internally competing for the attention of their ears.

For me, it’s my pen.

What about you?

What distracts you from (fully) giving yourself to the other person?

My friend and occasional therapist, Richard Avdoian, suggest the following:

“Allow things to profoundly penetrate you. Even if you don’t understand them right away. Be patient and mindful enough to let them enter through your head and slowly drift down to your heart.”

To gain a better understanding of Heart Listening, I’ve laid out four daily practices that you can start applying TODAY to grow bigger ears.

1. Let the pearl sink. When you’re given a piece of advice, or when someone utters an unexpected, profound gem, STOP. Pause for a moment to repeat the idea – out loud and/or in your head. Reflect on it. Freeze it in your mind. Register the moment. Take a Mental Polaroid of it and then clothespin it onto your psyche for further evaluation. Take a few breaths. Allow this new pearl to slowly sink from your head down to your heart.

LISTEN UP: Are you understanding things too quickly?

2. Capture and return. The challenge is to find a balance between capturing and listening. My suggestion is to “capture and return.” When your conversation partner makes an important point, or if a profound thought suddenly enters into your brain, quickly jot down the premise of the idea and return to the discussion. NO PROCESSING. NO EXPANDING. Capture and return. Honor the conversation.

LISTEN UP: Do have enough self-control to press the hold button on your next amazing idea for the purpose of being an attentive listener?

3. Multiple readings. Reading is also a form of listening. And some books require a higher level of thinking, and therefore are worth reading a few times. My suggestion is to first read the book with no pen. No processing. No note taking. Gently allow the author’s words wash over you. Then, come back to the book a second time. This assures that the key ideas from the reading become part of your daily practices and, therefore, truly resonate down to your core.

LISTEN UP: Are you listening to what the page is telling you?

4. Stop taking so many pictures. During my annual trip to Sedona this summer, I forgot my camera. Amazingly, however, my trip wasn’t any less memorable without my camera. In fact, this year it was even MORE unforgettable than ever. Because instead of taking pictures of every gorgeous canyon I passed, I would simply stop for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and allow my surroundings to imprint themselves on my soul. THAT was the only exposure that mattered.

LISTEN UP: Are you creating REAL memories or just taking a bunch of pictures?

I encourage you to begin practicing each of these four examples of growing bigger ears. In so doing you will honor the speaker, stay focused on the present moment and reduce the likelihood of missing out on important ideas.

Ooh! That was a good line. Better write that one down…

Are you listening with your head or your heart?

For the list called, “27 Reasons People Aren’t Listening to You,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Tune in to The Sales Channel on!

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Grow Bigger Ears: Keeping People on Point

“Yeah, but what does that have to do with MY problem?”
“That has NOTHING to do with our discussion!”
“Oh yeah, that’s a REAL big a help!”

Ever overheard one of those lines in a nearby person’s conversation?

Kinda makes you cringe.

THE PROBLEM IS: Those phrases are reactions, not responses.

They immediately slam the door on future communication between two people.

When someone offers limited, short, weak or odd comments in a conversation, your job as The Listener is remain objective, not judgmental.

Less confrontation, more discovery.
Less accusation, more exploration.
Less assuming, more asking.

Here’s a list of Phrases That Payses to put this principle into action:

1. Can you think of a related example?
2. I don’t see the relationship between…
3. Tell me what you mean by the word…?
4. Can you say how your comment is related to…?

REMEMBER: Listening is about keeping people on point.

What’s your best Listening Line?

For the list called, “17 Behaviors to Avoid for Effective Listening,” send an email to me and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

How many unsolicited referrals did YOU get this week?

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Grow Bigger Ears: Being a Patient Listener

My definition of listening is, “Loving someone with your ears.”

This brings to mind a common scripture quoted at many wedding ceremonies:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

THEREFORE: If listening is loving, and if loving is patient…

Listening = Patience

(As you can see above, practiced by dog, Paisley.)

Here are four practices to help your grow patient ears:

1. Have faith in the process. Natalie, my yoga instructor, constantly reminds her students to be patient and with and have faith in themselves during class.

“Remember, you have sixty seconds to execute this posture,” she’ll say, “So take your time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Have faith and trust that your body will be there.”

Similarly, in your listening practice, you need to believe that the speaker’s intention will eventually show up. Even when they’re tap-dancing around the real issues. Even when they’re taking too long to get to the point. Sure, you don’t have all day to sit there in silence, but sometimes you can only probe so much.

NOW HEAR THIS: Faith stands for, “Finally allowing it to happen.”

2. Leading others to lead themselves. Marjorie, a writer I once coached, came to me with a challenge about discipline. Because of her hectic schedule, she was unable to squeeze in regular blocks of time to complete her project.

Eventually, after asking a few questions about her daily schedule, it occurred to me that her problem wasn’t about discipline; it was about time management.

Now, the old, impatient me would have flat-out TOLD her that. But part of being a patient listener – as I’ve learned from countless screw-ups of my own – is leading the other person to lead herself. To paraphrase from Tao Te Ching, “A good leader takes the people to the finish and makes them say, ‘We did it on our own.’”

NOW HEAR THIS: Listen a little and they’ll give you their problem; listen a LOT and they’ll give you their solution.

3. Don’t immediately come to a conclusion. Listening impatience is kind of like stress: everybody manifests it differently. For example, some people tap their pen, others incessantly shake their left leg, while others whip out their Crackberry and start text messaging their boyfriend.

For me, listening impatience has a tendency to manifest in my arm. That is, I ALWAYS have to be the first one in the discussion to ask a question. Sometimes even before the speaker finishes asking, “Do we have any questions?”

“Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy! I have a question! Me! Me! Me! Pick me! Oh MAN what a great question I’m going to ask! Right here! Right here!”

I know. I’m working on it. And I’ve been this way since I was four years old, so it may take a while.

Anyway, uncontrollable arm ticks aside, here’s the secret to remember: You don’t (always) have to IMMEDIATELY come to a conclusion. Whether you’re practicing patience at a staff meeting, in a seminar or during a meeting with your boss, don’t be so quick to impose your own answers. Just pause. Listen first.

NOW HEAR THIS: Decide if your thought is a reaction or a response.

4. Mobilize people’s inner resources. As The Listener, few things are more beautiful than watching someone realize a truth on their OWN. In The Sacred Art of Listening, author Kay Lindahl writes, “If we’re still like water in a pond, the other person can see his reflection in it.”

That’s your job. To practice attentive silence. To let people see, find, say, do, know, learn and discover on their own. Resist the need to take over while respecting the speaker’s speed of self-discovery. No pushing. No forcing. Gentle nudging. Facilitating a natural process, you enable and nurture the speaker’s rhythm and guide him to make the best choices.

NOW HEAR THIS: When someone is listened to, she can more easily clarify her thoughts and feelings

Now that we’ve identified four key practices to enhance your listening patience, let’s conclude with an affirmation. I suggest you print it out, post it in a visible location and read it daily as reminder of your role as The Listener:


When I pause, I listen to the silences.
When I pause, I respect which questions want to be asked next.

When I speak, it’s only to improve on the silence.
When I speak, it’s to make a difference and contribute to the conversation.

When I engage, I make it easy for others to talk.
When I engage, I grant others adequate space to talk.

When I comment, I choose NOT to inject too much of myself.
When I comment, I choose to contribute to, not disrupt the conversation.
When I comment, I choose to be helpful and not intrude upon the speaker.

I am a Patient Listener, and I know how to love people with my ears.

How does your listening impatience manifest?

For the list called, “27 Reasons People Aren’t Listening to You,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

How many unsolicited referrals did YOU get this week?

Tune in to The Sales Channel on!

Watch video lessons on enabling customers to buy!

4 Ways to Listen to Yourself

Growing bigger ears is about listening to others, listening to the world, and of course, listening to YOURSELF.

Today we’re going to focus on the latter.

Here are four practices to help you listen to yourself more effectively.

1. TAKE WALKS … with yourself.
Also known as “moving meditation,” taking a walk is a perfect way to enlist your truest, most important thoughts. Walking clears your mind, stabilizes your emotions and levels your perspective. And walking also taps into your higher consciousness and attracts thoughts, ideas and solutions to current problems.

Even if that means walking around the block or down to the street to Starbucks.

REMEMBER: Solvitas perambulatorum! (More on this philosophy here.)

2. DO SOME WRITING … with yourself.
Undertaking daily exercises like journaling, guiding writing or Morning Pages will (probably) be the BEST way to listen to yourself. Writing is the great clarifier. It’s a ritual of reflection, a psychological holding environment and gateway to your inner and higher self, as Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way.

For example, think back to those essay tests you took in college. Your professor probably said something like; “You don’t (truly) know the material until you can write about it.”

And, that goes for your inner thoughts too: you don’t truly know what you think and feel about something until you can write about it.

REMEMBER: Writing is the basis of all wealth.

3. MEDITATE … with yourself.
TM. Yoga. Guided imagery. Daily appontments. Self-hypnosis. Mindfulness breathing. Relaxation CD’s. Any of these will work! The word “meditate” comes from the Latin meditatus, which means, “To think over, consider.”

The TYPE of meditation you choose to use isn’t as important as THAT you choose to meditate. Every single day.

Ans when you meditate, you calm your mind. And when your mind is calm – like a still body of water – you can more effectively see (and listen to) your own reflection.

REMEMBER: Meditation is listening.

4. HAVE DISCUSSIONS … with yourself.
Self-questioning is a powerful tool for listening to yourself. The challenge is figuring out which questions to ask.

I suggest combing this practice with #2, writing. Consider spending some time writing out your answers to such questions as:

1. Is this an opportunity or an opportunity to be used?
2. Is this the best use of my time right now?
3. Is what I’m doing right now consistent with my #1 goal?
4. What does this have to do with me?
5. What have I been noticing a lot of lately?
6. What is my body telling me right now?
7. What lessons have I recently learned?

REMEMBER: He who asks the best questions, wins.

Ultimately, you can’t listen to others until you’ve first learned how to listen to yourself. Consider these four practices and grow bigger ears today!

What is your body telling you right now?

For my list called, “101 People (not) to Listen to,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

Emotion means disturbance

The word “emotion” comes from the Latin emotere, which means, “To disturb.”

Which TOTALLY makes sense.

After all:

Emotions disturb your mind.
Emotions disturb your stillness.
Emotions disturb your awareness.

Emotions disturb the conversation.
Emotions disturb the listening process.
Emotions disturb the energy field between two people.

Now, this doesn’t mean emotions are bad.

It simply means they’re powerful.

And that if you don’t keep them in check, they will take over.


Is this (really) the best time to get emotional?

For my list called, “8 Phrases That Payses to Reduce Emotional Reactivity,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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The beauty and power of … The Pause

Listening is PAUSING.

And silence is a beautiful thing.

So, if you want to grow bigger ears, you’ve got to learn to appreciate the value of stillness.

I suggest the following Pausing Practices for listening success:

PAUSE … before you give an answer.
Take your time. Think about your response. Choose your words carefully. Let the silence speak to you. Demonstrating contemplation shows respect to the questioner.

PAUSE… after you ask a question.
Don’t continue to add value. No need to explain your question further. Ask; then be quiet. Let the pearl sink. Use your pause to create space in the conversation for the other person to think, breathe and just BE.

PAUSE … when someone else is on a roll.
Let them finish. Let them get it off their chest. Become a sounding board. Silence often serves as a permission slip for the other person to go deeper. Let them get to the good stuff.

PAUSE … after powerful, emotional or intelligent insights.
Not to gloat at your newfound eloquence, but to watch the other person take it in. To note how he or she reacts. To let them give birth to their own understanding. To be a listening midwife.

How are you tapping into the power of the pause?

For the list called, “13 Roles of The Listener,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

How many unsolicited referrals did YOU get this week?

Tune in to The Sales Channel on!

Watch video lessons on enabling customers to buy!

NametagTV: The Listening Environment

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To watch the original video and join the discussion on The Nametag Forums, click here!

How are you using your ears as a sales tool?

For a list called, “31 Questions to Test Your Listening Skills,” send an email to me and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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27 Reasons People Aren’t Listening to You

1. They just don’t care.

2. They haven’t been listened to first.

3. They’ve already heard enough lies.

4. They’re just waiting to take the stage.

5. They’re too busy reacting defensively.

6. They’re tuning you out as a defensive device.

7. They’re too busy trying to change you first.

8. They’re too interested in their own minds.

9. There’s too much noise, internally and externally.

10. They’re only speaking just to hear themselves talk.

11. They think they already know, um, EVERYTHING.

12. They’re impatient and want the bottom line, not your story.

13. They’re not open to what the you’re really trying to say.

14. They’ve resigned to the fact that they’re terrible listeners.

15. They have the human urge to be recognized and affirmed, which means they’re too busy TALKING.

16. They’re too eager to appear sympathetic and a good listener.

17. They’ve never been taught (or learned how to) listen properly.

18. They’d rather give advice, since doing so makes them feel important.

19. Their defensive reactions replace understanding and empathy.

20. They’re afraid they might hear things they don’t want to hear.

21. They assume they already know what you are going to say to them.

22. They avoid conflict because they’re too busy protecting themselves.

23. They think they already know what the other person is (trying) to say.

24. They live in a hyperspeed, A.D.D. culture, and they don’t think they have time to listen.

25. They don’t want to lose (or risk losing) control of the conversation or in general.

26. They’re afraid that they might actually come to see something differently, and maybe even change their mind.

27. Their emotional reactivity was triggered by something you said, and it became so loud (internally), that they couldn’t hear your words (externally).

What do you think causes people (not) to listen?

For a copy of my list called, “13 Roles of The Listener,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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17 Behaviors to Avoid for Effective Listening

Growing bigger ears isn’t just about what you DO.

It’s also about what you DON’T DO.

1. Don’t react.
Respond coolly, objectively and non-judgmentally.

2. Don’t think.
Just perceive without interpreting or labeling.

3. Don’t perform.
Because some people view listening as a performance.

4. Don’t tell someone not to feel a certain way.
This cheats her out of having her feelings.

5. Don’t get bored.
Because that means you’re focusing on the wrong person ☺

6. Don’t take over.
Instead, take IN the other person.

7. Don’t tell.
Instead, ask. (But not too many questions!)

8. Don’t give advice.
Unless someone asks for it.

9. Don’t usurp ownership.
Let the other person give birth to their ideas and realizations.

10. Don’t inflict your agenda.
Because listening isn’t about you.

11. Don’t one-up.
It’s a form of conversational narcissism.

12. Don’t use the other person’s comments as prompts for your clever little jokes.
It’s annoying and clearly motivated by self-interested.

13. Don’t speak.
Just stop talking for a while. Seriously. Let the silence make space for the other person to just BE.

14. Don’t impose your own structure.
Let the speaker pace the conversation.

15. Don’t fix.
That isn’t your job, and people don’t like to be “fixed.”

16. Don’t take too many notes.
Or else it will look like you’re too busy to listen.

17. Don’t ask, “Why?”
That word creates defensiveness.

What others behaviors should effective listeners avoid?

For a list called “27 Affirmations to Prepare Yourself to Listen,” send an email to and I’ll help you grow bigger ears today!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

If they can’t come UP to you; how will they ever get BEHIND you?

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