Good listening = Good Probing

by Ron Shapiro,

Have you ever sat in a project planning meeting and a few minutes into it realized that you don’t know which project your manager is currently talking about?  While your coworkers have Good listening = Good Probingbeen discussing and making plans, you have been thinking about all the emails that you need to respond to and getting to your kid’s baseball game on-time tonight.  This happens all the time and to everyone; especially in our time-limited, multi-tasking society.  And not to mention with all the technological gadgets and devices that we are constantly being distracted with.  Research suggests that we remember less than 50% of what we hear.  Meaning we miss over half of everything.

However, those that excel in project management have excellent listening skills.  In order to effectively probe, listening is critical.  The more information you are able to obtain from the other side, the better your position and the greater power you hold. However, getting more information from the other party is always a challenge.  In order to extract information, you have to probe effectively.  This involves focusing and carefully listening to what the other side is saying and telling you.  It is important to hear not only the words that another person is saying, but to understand the complete message being sent and what is being implied so you can ask appropriate follow-up questions and probe further.  It is important to focus, listen and understand.

Use these effective approaches to enhance your listening skills. They are – “The Three Cs” – Connect, Consider and Confirm.

First, connect yourself either through eye contact if you are in a meeting or by using the person’s name that you are on the phone with.   Second, carefully consider your response after listening to the other person.  Pause to reflect and then formulate a response.  Don’t mentally form your comment or counter argument while they are still talking.  You can’t effectively listen if you are busy thinking.  Third, confirm what is to be discussed and what has been discussed.  Using agendas and written summaries help to prioritize and highlight important aspects, and also eliminate harmful mistakes and misunderstandings. These are just a few, easy ways to help you become a more effective listener.

If you found these tips from Ron Shapiro of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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