Dynamic Listening

20 Apr 2022

We were extremely fortunate to have renowned coach, facilitator and trainer Lizzie Palmer host our recent Agency seminar on Dynamic Listening. The most impactful communication isn’t about how persuasively you speak; it’s how you consciously and skilfully listen to clients, consumers, employees and each other. Here, Lizzie shares her top tips for great listening.


‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’ Steven Covey

These are wise words and often forgotten.

When I was a client, it was the agencies who listened to me, reflected and didn’t knee jerk a response who I worked with best and who ultimately came up with the better ideas and solutions.

I felt listened to, understood, not talked at, or sold to.

The people in those agencies weren’t ‘yes men or women’, just doing what I asked, or ploughing ahead with what they thought was right (because they were going to blunderbuss their solution through). They asked good questions, were prepared to be changed by what they heard and responded thoughtfully.

True listening is about acuity; looking at the overall person, hearing their words, yes. AND looking at their body language. Is everything in sync, or are they saying ‘yes’ when they really mean ‘no’? Looking out for and listening to body language tells us a lot.

Part of the act of listening is hearing what the person really cares about at a holistic, values level as well as the content.

This is level 4 of the levels of listening.  Here are the levels:

  1. First, non-listening where we are not really listening at all. Instead we are listening to our inner critic, day dreaming or have been set off on a different stream of consciousness.
  2. Second, there is ‘me’ listening. Listening for where we can jump in to speak, to make it all about me and my experiences and expertise. Here you are ‘waiting your turn to speak’.
  3. Micro listening is listening for words and content only. This is helpful and often part of dialogue and good to focus to check in on understanding.
  4. Macro listening is listening at its deepest, where we are listening empathetically for meaning and feeling, what the other person says and importantly doesn’t say. Try and be macro listening at least some of the time with your clients. And silence can be golden, if you don’t jump in (because you fear silence and need to fill it), your client will often elaborate and say what they truly mean.  Listen out for ‘what I really mean is’, ‘actually’.  This is the brain sorting its thoughts out so that you can speak meaningfully (we think much faster than we speak).

Try and be changed by what you hear from the other person, assume good intent, and see if you can say “yes and” to the idea to build on it.

The most impactful communication isn’t about how persuasively you speak; it’s about how you consciously and skilfully listen to clients, consumers, employees and each other.

Tips for great listening 

  • Be present
  • Focus – give your complete attention
  • Have acuity – listen to body language, pace and tone
  • Listen for what is unsaid
  • Respect the words and the silence
  • Check in on what you think you have heard.
  • Ask big, open or clarifying questions and listen to the reply!

Lizzie Palmer started at O&M as an account handler. After 8 years and 4 agencies, the poacher turned gamekeeper. Previously Marketing Director of Capital Radio Discovery Channel and Director of Worldwide Brand Strategy, Development & Communications at Orange, Lizzie now facilitates, trains and coaches across the globe in areas such as storytelling in business, leadership, consultative selling, getting to vision and values and strategy and teambuilding. Her clients include ISBA, IPA, AND Digital, OVO, ONS, The Cotswold Company, CTO, The National Film and Television School, The Oxford Cultural Leaders Programme, CTO.

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