How to listen to solve problems

Theo, as Gérard’s team member was explaining why a client has stalled a programme.

Gérard has eye contact and *seems* to be listening but he cuts in before Theo has finished.

He proceeds to offer advice before Theo has finished, then quickly offers to pass it on to another team.

However, he’s too quick off the mark. He doesn’t realise the problem is not with the client but the Sales Team, who over-promised on the timings.

Because Gerard’s jumped in so quickly, the issue may take longer to solve and they could potentially lose that client.

Gerard needs to remember his E.A.R.S. to overcome the issue.


What are E. A. R. S.?

1. Explore

    —ask open-ended questions such as “Tell me more about that?” and “How will that impact you?” and “What were the causes? ” Questions that begin with “What” and “How” have lead to better quality answers.

Avoid “Why” as people tend to become defensive.

2. Acknowledge—respond with comments such as “You must be feeling …” or “So, if I’m hearing you correctly, what you’re saying is ….”

At this point, the other person may clarify or expand on what they’re saying so once you’ve acknowledged, keep quiet. Let them speak and reflect.

I’ll say it again.

Keep. QUIET.

The urge to fill the silence is strong. So hold that silence.

You’ll allow key information to be discovered.

3. Respond—at this point, you can choose your response, whether it be a disagnostic, opinion or course of action.


Your Action:

  1. Pinpoint your next 121 with someone.
  2. Write down on your phone or a piece of paper: EXPLORE / ACKNOWLEDGE / RESPOND
  3. During that conversation, ensure you’re covering each of those three steps.


Thanks to Debbie Yarwood, Founder of the Smarter Manager, who brought this technique to my attention.


Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels


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