Listening for the Commitment

In my last blog post, I said that the phenomenon of listening consists of only two components:

1. Who do you have your attention on?

2. What’s your internal conversation?

I further said that if you want to be a really effective listener, just give the other person your undivided attention. Period. Forget all this nonsense about active listening, whatever that means, eye contact, body language, and the rest. Just give the other person, whoever it is, your undivided attention. Have your internal conversation be something like: how are we both going to win here and work together.

There are certain times when it is highly desirable to generate a particular internal conversation and I’ll use this post and several future ones to discuss them. If you want to read about this in detail, get yourself a copy of my book at

I’m sure you experience times when people come to you with a complaint. And what do we tend to do when we see a complainer coming? Close your door, get on the phone, take a bathroom break, etc. We do this because at that moment, we have our attention on ourselves and the complainer shows up as an annoyance.

Instead, get your attention on them and ask yourself internally: “I wonder what he’s committed to that he’s complaining?” In the vast majority of cases, when people complain, it’s because they’re committed to something that’s not happening. If you listen for their commitment, you’ll hear it every time.

So then you say to them: “it sounds like you’re committed to . . . and it’s not happening and you’re frustrated about that. Am I hearing you correctly?” The likely answer is: “yes.”

So then you say: “what do you want to do about it?” Not “here’s what I recommend you do about it.” This is critical. You have to teach people to come up with their own solutions to their problems and not be running to you every time something doesn’t work.

This is hard for most men because we love to solve other people’s problems for them. Don’t do it. Teach people to think for themselves.

Worst case scenario: you ask what they want to do about it and they answer: “I don’t know.” Simply reply: “what if you did know?” You’ll be amazed at how that question forces people to come up with a solution.

In conclusion, rather than being annoyed by people’s complaints, use them as an opportunity to empower them, a much more useful approach.

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