Paul Klipp: Components of Listening Part I

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Coaching, Community, Conference | 5 Comments
Paul Klipp

Paul Klipp at ALE2014

Paul Klipp talked about listening at ALE2014 in Kraków. I find his practical approach to listening very compelling. I’m summarising the three methods he’s combined. The basic ideas are very simple:

  • Let the other think,
  • Understand emotional expressions, (see the next post)
  • Train your mind to listen and understand, even when things get rough (last post).

Let Them Think

Paul recommended Nancy Kline’s book Time To Think who says that everybody’s ability to think can be improved by an environment that encourages us to think: where we are respectfully listened to, not interrupted, and guided past our blocks with incisive questions. A thinking environment therefore needs two components: listening well and incisive questions. Listening well enables the other to think. The first step is very simple:

Don’t talk.

The second can be quite hard:

Don’t think about talking.

Don't Talk

Don’t Talk & Don’t Think about Talking

Usually we compete for air space. In normal conversations no one gets a chance to fully develop a thought, as we’re lacking respectful attention. When I’m interrupting someone who’s not talking but still thinking, I’m breaking their train of thought. I’m showing them that their thinking is not valuable to me. An invitation to continue like “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” in contrast will encourage them to think more, and better.

“The quality of a person’s attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.”
Nancy Kline

You can invite them to go another step further with an incisive question. That helps them to remove what may be blocking their thinking. For instance, invite them to imagine being in a different situation: “If you were promoted right now, what is the first thing you would do?”

Expressing Emotions

Listening to people, we can discern two modes of messaging: someone may try to think through a problem, or they may express their emotions. These modes tend to get mixed up quite often. While “when ever we have tried this, we didn’t get the results we expected” sounds like someone thinking, “This NEVER ever works here!” rather sounds like an expression of an emotion. We’re generally not very good at expressing our emotions. Neither are we very good at understanding and discerning emotions when we’re listening. Paul recommends practicing non-violent communication (NVC) to improve our skills.

When we listen to an emotional expression, our own emotions may get in the way and inhibit us from actually using our listening and non-violent communication skills. Paul recommends mindfulness meditation as a method to train our brains to more easily shift focus. I’ll cover those two methods in later posts.

What is your experience? How do you listen well? Which methods work for you?.


  1. Trust Artist Paul Klipp: Components of Listening Part II - Trust Artist
    September 2, 2014

    […] Let the other think, which I covered in Part I, […]

  2. Trust Artist Paul Klipp on Listening Part III - Trust Artist
    September 7, 2014

    […] Let the other think, which I covered in Part I, […]

  3. Thoughts after Agile Prague 2014
    September 18, 2014

    […] of this presentation made by Paul at Agile Lean Europe 2014. If you want to learn more read the articles and look for opportunities to see Paul talking about this topic at various conferences and events […]

  4. Trust Artist Clean Learning at your Best - Trust Artist
    January 22, 2015

    […] other person. The magic of Clean Language is that by only using the words you heard, you help them develop their thoughts without adding much of your own […]

  5. Trust Artist eXtreme Listening - Trust Artist
    March 7, 2016

    […] Before we allowed the pairs to actually listen to each other’s stories, we gave them some instructions based on Paul Klipp’s listening advice: […]


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