Listening training: How to do more than simply pay attention

Nicole Lowenbraun

Written by

Nicole Lowenbraun

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

“Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.” – Richard Branson

Most of us are very familiar with these sayings. They teach us that, to be a good listener, you simply need to avoid speaking. Remain silent, nod your head, make eye contact, don’t interrupt, and … voila! You’re magically an attentive listener.

The problem is, there’s no listening workshop or listening training that helps us work on these skills (until now.) And that’s because listening is more complicated than paying attention.

These quotes resonate with us because they confirm what we were taught as children in our earliest school days. Good listening = paying attention. School-based listening assessments evaluate students on whether they pay attention … or don’t. And many of us have carried that philosophy with us into adulthood.

One way this is showing up in the workplace is through a big push for active listening — a strategy with countless definitions and sources, largely centered around maintaining attention and focusing on what you’re hearing. One of the biggest problems with active listening is that there’s no one listening training on active listening. That’s because active listening lacks actionable and memorable models that help us listen in the workplace.


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Why you need a listening workshop

As executive speaker coaches, we saw this lack of listening training surface in an obvious way at the beginning of the pandemic. Many of our executive clients reached out to ask, “How can I be there for my people right now?” Many of them were asking what they could say to make their teams feel comforted and assured during such a trying and uncertain time. They wanted to exhibit an executive presence that was both strong and warm – one rooted in empathy.

We helped these leaders create presentations, written correspondence, and even short videos to express their solidarity during such a critical period.

But when we challenged our clients with a follow-up question, “Are you also listening to them?,” we got a lot of inquisitive expressions. They were surprised to learn that listening is a major part of the presence they were seeking. And that’s because they had never taken listening training or a listening workshop before.

“Of course!” they said. “When someone is talking to me, I always eliminate distractions and give them my full attention.” Well sure, those are good things to do, but paying attention is the bare minimum. As we were taught, paying attention, even actively listening, makes you a decent person, but not necessarily a good listener.

The best listening training teaches you how to listen in a way that meets the goals of the person speaking. And the best listening workshop to train you how to do that is Duarte’s Adaptive Listening™ workshop.

Adaptive Listening understands that listening involves a lot more than nodding your head and making eye contact, especially in the workplace. It takes critical analysis, self-awareness skills, and observation to figure out what the person speaking needs.


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Start your listening training by conducting a listening assessment

Want to conduct your own listening assessment to identify if your listening goes beyond just paying attention? Start by asking yourself this fundamental question:

  • “Do I listen for the speaker?”
  • This is something most people don’t think of when they’re about to listen to someone. We tend to focus on, “What’s in it for me?” or “What’s the speaker going to say that could impact my job?” We rarely, if ever, think about what we can give the speaker when we’re listening.

As speakers, most of us are willing to consider what our audience needs to hear from us. When we’re crafting our content, we think about what we can say to motivate them, persuade them, or inform them. When we focus on the needs of our audience, we tend to get a better outcome because audiences respond well when the message they’re receiving connects with them. And that’s because many of us have taken speaker training or speaker workshops.

The reverse is no different, but unfortunately there aren’t many listening workshops to help us improve. The Adaptive Listening workshop teaches listeners to uncover:

  • Their S.A.I.D. Listening Style™: how you prefer to process and respond to information
  • The speaker’s S.A.I.D. Listening Goal™: what they want to get out of the interaction
  • How to adapt your listening so you can process and respond appropriately to meet the speaker’s goals

When we do this, we can expect better outcomes, potential conflicts resolved, and better traction. Initiatives are more likely to get across the finish line.

Take our listening quiz to find your listening style

We spent three years researching and testing to develop our new book and workshop, Adaptive Listening, based on the S.A.I.D. Listening Model™. Just like you have a DiSC® profile or an Enneagram number, you also have a preferred way to listen. You’re either a:

  • Support Listener™
  • Advance Listener™
  • Immerse Listener™
  • Discern Listener™

But in the workplace, speakers also have goals. They either want you to:

  • Listen to Support™
  • Listen to Advance™
  • Listen to Immerse™
  • Listen to Discern™

Sometimes your style will match their goal and magic will happen! But if they don’t match, it’s up to you to adapt your listening to meet that goal.




To uncover your S.A.I.D. Listening Style™, take our Style Finder now!


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Okay, now that you know your S.A.I.D. Listening Style, let’s break down the speaker’s S.A.I.D. Listening Goals …

Listening training: Learn Support Listening™

Everyone experiences challenging workdays. But we also enjoy moments of celebration at work. While on opposite spectrums, both situations lead to a desire for human connection. We want comfort when things are rough, and we want congratulations and kudos when things are great. Support Listening is all about validating the emotions of the speaker.

If they say something like, “I’m having a horrible day,” or “I have the best news!” that’s your cue that they need Support Listening. In this case, your job is to respond with words and actions that will validate the feelings of the speaker, whether that’s to commiserate with them or celebrate with them. Your job is to either be the confidant or the cheerleader, depending on the context and situation.

Consider doing a quick listening assessment on yourself to determine how good you are at Support Listening. On a scale from 1-10, what score would you give yourself on your listening when the situation calls for you to validate others’ emotions. If your score is low, consider taking a listening training.

**As a note, validating someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with their feelings.

Listening Training: Learn Advance Listening™

When the people we work with are overwhelmed or pressed for time, they’re often looking for someone to unburden them or lighten their load. Advance Listening in this case means listening in a way that will move people, projects, and processes to the next step.

If they say something like, “I don’t think I’ll have time to finish all of this,” or “I don’t know how I’m going to keep this project moving,” you might take on some of that work yourself or delegate tasks to help the speaker get to the finish line.

Consider doing a quick listening assessment on yourself to determine how good you are at Advance Listening. On a scale from 1-10, what score would you give yourself on your listening when the situation calls for you to move processes, projects, and people forward? If your score is low, keep reading.

Listening Training: Learn Immerse Listening™

There are many workplace situations in which the speaker needs you to understand and remember the content without input or judgement. When the speaker’s message is meant to inform or simply entertain, being a good listener means learning the information and soaking it all in. If they say something like, “I’m just here to give you an update today,” or “Sit back and enjoy!” that’s your cue that you need to Listen to Immerse.

When the speaker needs Immerse Listening, your job is to take notes or mentally catalogue the information you’re hearing. You might ask clarifying questions or confirm what you’ve heard for the purposes of understanding, but your main goal is to be a content sponge.

Consider doing a quick listening assessment on yourself to determine how good you are at Immerse Listening. On a scale from 1-10, what score would you give yourself on your listening when the situation calls for you to understand and remember the content. If your score is low, you might need listening training.

Listening Training: Learn Discern Listening™

When the people we work with need their content to be evaluated, that’s a sign they need Discern Listening. Sometimes colleagues need us to consider the strengths and weaknesses of their situation or project. Discern Listening in this case means helping the speaker find red flags and pinpoint positives.

If they say something like, “I need some feedback on this,” or “I’m not sure if this makes sense,” that’s your cue that Discern Listening is needed. In this case, your job is to respond with words and actions that will help the speaker evaluate what’s working and what’s not. You might uncover the benefits and drawbacks of their situation or consider alternatives.

You can do a quick listening assessment on yourself to determine how good you are at Discern Listening. On a scale from 1-10, what score would you give yourself on your listening when the situation calls for you to evaluate or critique the content. If your score is low, take a listening workshop!


Duarte’s Adaptive Listening workshop

Our work lives are dynamic. Speakers need different things at different times, and it’s not always easy to figure out what their goals are. But our listening workshop can help!

Adaptive Listening encourages you to truly understand what the person speaking needs. Our listening training goes far being paying attention. Whether you need to Listen to Support, Advance, Immerse, or Discern, you’ll be empathetic to the speaker simply by adapting your listening to meet their goals.

Of course, if workshops aren’t your thing … there’s a book for that, too!


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