How to become a great listener

Some time ago Peter Lumley, our chair at Coaching York, introduced me to the Chinese word for listening – Ting. Here it is.


This combination of characters creates a little bucket of ideas evoking the following thoughts: “Listen with your ear, ten eyes, your whole heart, as if you had the attention of your king.”

What I like about this is the impact of a single image conveying a variety of mutually reinforcing concepts. It’s quite different from more linear approaches to improving listening skills such as the famous “Ladder of listening.”


Clearly both are helpful. The ladder is a good check list of the sort of behaviour you want to cultivate if you want to become a really great listener. Having said that, if you want something to call to mind to help you focus just as you are about to engage in a conversation, you might agree with me that Ting is more elegant and intuitive.

Coaching in Action

If you’ve never used a visual mnemonic to help you develop a skill, why not start with Ting. Just take a few minutes to look at the image and remind yourself of the concepts it represents.

Then give it a try. For the next conversation you are about to have, tell yourself you are about to serve this person by giving them your full and devoted attention, as you would with the most important person you could possibly imagine.

Ting and the Art of Listening originally appeared on the Coaching York blog April 2015.

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