Mastering The Art Of Listening

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Marketing Podcast with Oscar Trimboli

Oscar Trimboli, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing PodcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Oscar Trimboli. Oscar is the author of How to Listen: Discover the Hidden Key to Better Communication – the most comprehensive book about listening in the workplace.

Key Takeaway:

Despite leaders spending 83% of their day listening, only 2% have been trained in effective listening skills. Oscar Trimboli joins me in this episode as he shares his practical insights to help you notice and improve your listening skills. Listen and learn to master the missing half of communication and create a greater impact in your personal and professional life.

Questions I ask Oscar Trimboli:

  • [1:16] How would you describe the act of listening in the workplace?
  • [4:10] What are you finding that not listening in the way is costing people?
  • [5:34] What are some of the real benefits of listening?
  • [7:23] What role does the entire body or body language as people refer to it, play in listening?
  • [9:48] What role does the fact that we’re all on Zoom and virtual meetings and we’re not in person in offices nearly like we used to be — what role does that play in degrading people’s ability to listen?
  • [11:49] I suspect gender plays a role in listening on who’s maybe more naturally in tune to that. What did your research find there?
  • [13:26] What about listening from a cultural perspective – are Americans terrible listeners for example?
  • [15:52] Do you have any kind of ritual to bring your focus toward listening?
  • [18:36] Could you walk me through your decisions from a format standpoint on the book because I get the sense that you’re very intentional about everything you do?
  • [21:43] Where can people learn more about your work and get a copy of your book?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Outbound Squad, hosted by Jason Bay and brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. The audio destination for business professionals host Jason Bay dives in with leading sales experts and top performing reps to share actionable tips and strategies to help you land more meetings with your ideal clients. In a recent episode called Quick Hacks to Personalize Your outreach, he speaks with Ethan Parker about how to personalize your outreach in a more repeatable way. Something every single one of us has to do it. Listen to Outbound Squad, wherever you get your podcasts. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Oscar Trimboli. He's the author of How to Listen, discover the Hidden Key to Better Communication, the most comprehensive book about listening in the workplace. And he's also got a new book out called Deep Listening Impact Beyond Words. So Oscar, welcome to the show.

Oscar Trimboli (01:12): Good day, John. Looking forward to listening to your questions.

John Jantsch (01:15): . Well, let's see where we go. In fact, maybe the fir, I always like to start to get a kind of a baseline on some terminology sometimes. I mean, how would you describe the act of listening in the workplace?

Oscar Trimboli (01:30): Listening in the workplace, A lot of people have heard about active listening, which is listen to what people say, pay attention, focus, paraphrase and nod. And when we talk about deep listening, when you understand the neuroscience of listening, the most important thing to listen to is what people don't say. There's a huge differential between the speaking speed of the speaker and their thinking speed. They think at 900 words a minute, yet they can only speak at 125. So when you are listening in the workplace, the most important thing you should be listening to is what they haven't said. ,

John Jantsch (02:05): I'm gonna choose my words carefully today. Of course. So maybe more so than with some guests, you have done some research, I don't know, over 10,000 workplace listeners. Describe that a little bit and you know, how is a we a research project like that conducted and what are some of the things you've discovered?

Oscar Trimboli (02:22): Yeah, like, like the book, like the playing cards, like the queers, the research came about because my clients asked me to, and we are sitting about 24,000 workplace listeners now. The research was about what gets in the way of people's listening at work. There's a lot that's being written about what a world class listeners do. What is it in terms of being aspirational to listeners? What we did with our researchers, we weren't quite the opposite way. There are small things that get in the way of what people do. So we started off with 1,410 people that we surveyed. Half we knew they had interacted with the work we did, and half we didn't know. We used a panel of participants who were in the workplace, normed against a database of the working population. And we asked them three simple questions, what do you struggle with when it comes to listening?

(03:17): What's the one thing you'd love to improve when it comes to listening? And when you are the speaker, what's the listener doing that really frustrates you when it comes to listening? So we got a mountain of information there, John, but then we did a second round of research, which was quantitative. We used numeric scaling and we came up with descriptors of the four primary things that get in people's way when it comes to listening. These are the four villains of listening and these four villains of listening from the research and in fact named by the research participants, dramatic interrupting, lost and shrewd, a listening villa.

John Jantsch (03:59): I was having some, I'm having some construction done here at the house.

Oscar Trimboli (04:02): I, it's not coming through on the episode. By the way, you mentioned that on your last interview, isn't it? I

John Jantsch (04:10): Did So, uh, so forgive me there. So what I was starting to ask you is what are you finding that not listening in the way that you're talking about at least is costing people

Oscar Trimboli (04:21): The cost of not listening and the way people described it in the research was lost. Customers were still you winner customer that becomes an unprofitable customer cuz you didn't listen to what they actually said. Particularly if you were in any kind of professional services industry, whether you're an accountant, whether you're a lawyer, market researcher, you're in software industry, winning the wrong customer can be probably the most costly thing you can do. The other costs of not listening are great employees who leave before they should because they don't feel heard, valued, or seen in the workplace. You're not getting the most out of your suppliers. You have issues with your regulator or the media because you're not paying attention to what the external marketplace is saying. But for the vast majority of people who run their own businesses, it's typically coming down to reduced profitability because of rework where people are having multiple meetings to get the same project, the same product, the same campaign done to the quality that was expected. So the cost of not listening is quite significant.

John Jantsch (05:34): So I guess flip that around. Let's flip that around to the positive then, you know, what are some of the real highlights? Like if you were gonna sell somebody on on the benefits or the roi, you know of listening, you know, what would be some immediate trackable things that somebody could point to?

Oscar Trimboli (05:49): Yeah, this is a good question. We attracted 1,410 people from our research group and we're giving 'em specific things to try. What they've said consistently is they get more time back in their schedule because they have fewer meetings and the meetings they have are shorter. How does this happen? When you start to listen, not just to what people say, but to what they think and what they mean, meetings don't come back later on and go, oh, I thought you meant X. And as a result you have to do a whole rework. So the big thing that people are reporting back is the first one time on average people are saying they get 5% of their schedule back Now doesn't sound a lot. That's a week in a week. That's one day in in a year. That adds up quite significantly. The other thing that people are saying is the upside of listening in their workplace profitability is increasing because rework is declining. So your costs and your sales effectiveness is increasing, not because you're winning more, but the customers you have got. You are listening to bigger problems that are not symptoms, but more systemic problems for the customer. And either you can refer somebody to them or what normally happens in our client base, they say that discovering more problems for their clients that they can solve.

John Jantsch (07:23): So, so when we mentioned listening, you know, we immediately think ears, right? What role does the entire body or body language as people refer to it, play in listening?

Oscar Trimboli (07:36): So there's five levels in listening and you are referring to level two, which is listening to content. It's what you hear, what you see and what you sense. So when we think about the middle one, what you see in terms of body language, when we spoke to Susan Constantine, she's known as the human lie detector. She's advising lots of legal practitioners about how to select jury panels, for example. But whether we spoke to her or to Mark Bowden, one of the things that people consistently say is, as humans we overplay our sense of the role of body language and what we see. The most important thing you want to, whether it was Susan or with mock body language, is about the congruency between what people say and how their body is showing up As a human, you can do that in a microsecond. You are coded to do that really quickly. Unfortunately, if your face is in a laptop, looking at your connected watch, looking at your cell phone, the likelihood you can be present to notice body language is really low. So I'd encourage everybody listening is a contact sport and it's three-dimensional. When you look at content, it's what you see, it's what you hear and it's what you sense. So you also have to notice what people say and how they're saying it.

John Jantsch (09:02): Hey, marketing agency owners, you know, I can teach you the keys to doubling your business in just 90 days or your money back. Sound interesting. All you have to do is license our three step processed it. It's gonna allow you to make your competitors irrelevant, charge a premium for your services and scale perhaps without adding overhead. And here's the best part. You could license this entire system for your agency by simply participating in an upcoming agency certification intensive look, why create the wheel? Use a set of tools that took us over 20 years to create. And you can have 'em today, check it out at That's So you mentioned multitasking to some degree there. What role then playing on with that little bit, what role does the fact that we're all on these zooms and the virtuals and we're not in person in offices nearly like we used to be? You know, what role does that play in degrading people's ability to listen?

Oscar Trimboli (10:07): So listening situational, relational and contextual. You'll listen differently in a mediated environment like a Zoom, a team web, a Google meets. One of the things people say to us is in our research group that we keep tracking, they say to us, I oh Oscar, I don't have that connection that I had in a face-to-face meeting. I say yes, and you have a completely different connection because in a lot of cases people are gonna be sharing their backgrounds with you, they may be sharing part of their home with you. And I remember talking to Dr. Bronwyn King, who runs an organization called Tobacco Free Portfolio. She had to travel the world for 300 days of the year to visit boardrooms in finance organizations all around the world. She was never, ever invited into somebody's home in any of that time that she travel face to face.

(11:00): Yeah, with Zoom, she's able to do that on a very regular basis. And the connection she has now as a result of that is completely different. So one of the things I'd encourage you to do, if you're a leader or you run your own business, don't blow her out your background. Just be who you are because it's gonna help create a connection for you and the other person. It will give you something to discuss. Now, by the way, when you're on Zoom, you can stare at someone's eyes and they'll never know. You can't do that in real life. John .

John Jantsch (11:34): Yeah, it's a good, that's a great point. Yeah. It's funny, when the pandemic first came around and everybody immediately shifted to zoom, I remember seeing a lot of spare bedrooms and , unmade beds and , things of that nature. People eventually kind of set something up that looked a little more like an office. But uh, yeah, there was a period there where we were seeing things we'd never seen before. So I suspect, I'm not gonna make an assumption, but I suspect gender plays a role in listening and who's a better listener or who's maybe more naturally in tune to that. What did your research find there?

Oscar Trimboli (12:07): Whether it's my research or volumes of academic research, this is an old question. Do the genders listen differently in terms of listening effectiveness, there is no material difference in the way the genders listen. Yet the way people experience listening from different genders is quite radically different. The research summarized is women listen to feel. Men listen to fix. That means our listening orientation comes from a very different place. Now, this is a vast generalization, John. I'm sure there are women who listen to fix and men who listen to Phil. But when I say this and I talk to people and we look at the way our listening villains show up, there is a slight variation in the way genders show up and how they listen, but it doesn't actually make a material difference to their listening effectiveness. So when it comes to your gender, the only thing I would say is no matter what you're a woman or a man or another, you can always improve your listening in the very next conversation.

John Jantsch (13:25): So let's carry on with that idea. What about culturally are Americans terrible listeners? For an example,

Oscar Trimboli (13:30): , we've researched the English speaking Western workplaces. Yet because of that we've touched on how do Eastern Europeans listen? How do South Americans listen? For example, if you're in a really strong relationship with somebody in South America or Eastern Europe, it's not uncommon to talk over the top of the other person. An interruption is actually a sign of a tight relationship. Yet in America, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, the opposite is true. Talking over someone will be a sign of rudeness. The big cultural variance across Asia and high context cultures, Korea, Japan, China is the role of silence.

(14:14): So in the West we use this phrase, the awkward silence, the pregnant pause, the deafening silence. I struggle with silence. I want to fill the silence. Yet in the east and in high context cultures like the Polynesian cultures, the Innu cultures of North America, the aboriginal cultures of Australia and the Maori cultures of New Zealand. These high context cultures use silence as a tuning fork for the group. But it's also a sign of wisdom, respect, and authority. So culturally, we do listen differently. Yet across all cultures we tend to struggle most with distraction. Turning up and being ready to listen is the most common thing that gets in the way of every human's way of listening. Because we listen at 400 words per minute, yet they speak at 125. So you're jumping ahead and you're using heuristics and matching mindsets to go, oh, I know how to solve this. Oh, wish they'd hurry up. Oh I need to get some lunch. And all these other things that pop into our mind. One of the biggest fallacies about listening, John, focus on the speaker first. That's interesting, but it's really unproductive. You need to listen to yourself first. Most of us have multiple browser tabs open in our mind and our memory is so full that we can't process what the person in front of us is about to say.

John Jantsch (15:45): That's really interesting. I mean it's almost like our mind gets bored listening to somebody and so we start processing other things. Do you have any kind of a ritual, so to speak, for like let's say you were getting ready to get on this call or you're getting ready to meet with somebody. I mean, do you have something to bring your focus into? Okay, let's turn this stuff off. Let's be here now and listen, I mean, is there a process you go through or recommend?

Oscar Trimboli (16:08): Number one, I have a completely different browser tab and setting for when I go onto video conferences. So all my notifications are completely off. I don't even have to worry about it. That is set up and all of us can do that. That's very simple. Whether you're on a Mac, a pc, an iPhone or an Android, there's one button to switch off all your notifications. That's 83% of the distractions our research group tell us gets in the way. Ritual number two is play music as little as 30 seconds for me. There's three different songs that I use depending on the energy I need to bring to the group, the audience and the outcome that I'm working with ranges from very soft, instrumental all the way through to heavy rap wrap ritual. Number four, drink a glass of water before I go into the conversation. And ritual number five is take three deep breaths before you press.

(17:06): Join the meeting or walk into the meeting as well. If you do get distracted in a meeting, some of the quickest tips I could recommend just have a glass of water consistently. The brain, 5% of body mass yet is consuming 26% of blood sugar. And the quickest way to help the brain process the listening, just pause, drink a half a glass of water. Now if you drink coffee, that's great, but I encourage you also to drink water. Coffee is not a substitute for water, although it does have water in it. And John's just showing us that he's got a regular supply of water where he is right now, the most important thing about water and breathing, it sends a signal to the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the body that sits around the lungs and it just says, relax John. Everything's gonna be okay. And you can be present to what the other person's saying.

John Jantsch (18:01): I want to talk a little bit about and thank you for sharing that. Those were all great tips cuz I do think that it, there has to be something intentional about saying, okay, like I'm shifting into this new thing. I wanna talk a little bit about the format. Again, I'm holding up for those of you that are on video, we'll also have it on our show notes. But the format of your book is rather unique. It is. First off a boxed book. It is rather small in size relative to other books, about a quarter of the size, perhaps going a little shirt pocket. And then there's also a deck of what I could only describe as playing cards, but I think you would probably call them practice cards for for listening. So tell me a little bit about your decisions from a format standpoint on the book, because I get the sense that you're very intentional about everything you do.

Oscar Trimboli (18:45): Well again, think you give me much more credit than my community. My clients, my research group, both the book and the cards have all come about by listening to my clients. And one of the things the clients say is, wow, Oscar, this listening stuff, it's much bigger than I thought. Could you package it up into something really small? And the format was very deliberate because it was the format the group had asked me for. I want something to be able to reference. I want something to be able to put into my handbag, my jacket pocket to be able to take on a flight. I've had photos of people who are by the sides of waterfalls in hotel rooms, all showing me the book. And yet the other thing is the applying cards, the practice cards. They're designed around the five levels of listening. And each card has a concept and a question that you can practice.

(19:41): And what I recommend with the cards is once a week, use one card, maybe share it with somebody else, maybe someone you trust in the workplace, maybe a life partner and just say, Hey, I'm working on this week. Have a look at the card when I do it well hey, give me a cheer when I don't, just remind me. The cards are about listening happens before, during, and after a conversation. And this is about the third part, how do you sustain your listening? Listening like any other thing is a practice, it's a strategy. And you need to be building your listening muscles intentionally over time. When you do listening moves from heavy energy sapping to lite n easy because your orientation moves from I need to listen to what they say to how do I get them to say what they have and said, when you do listening's, light listening's easy people describe their listening batteries. When they come into workshops with me, as am my listening batteries yellow or orange red or maybe touching on black. Yet when they finish the workshop they go, wow, my listening batteries are recharge. I can see how I can stay on green all the time just by practicing with these cards.

John Jantsch (20:59): You know, it's funny you mentioned the idea of silence and like getting people to say, you know what they aren't saying. And I find that actually silence is really one of the best tools for that because a lot of other people have that sense that I need to fill up the space. And so many times your silence will actually in some ways force them to continue or to go deeper or to explore, you know what what you ask them at a deeper level. So I, I think there are many ways that that I have seen. I mean, I have so much work to do or as you as I guess you suggest most people do. But I have seen the power of this, certainly this idea firsthand of deep listening.

Oscar Trimboli (21:36): Yeah, just remember silent and listen, have the identical letters.

John Jantsch (21:41): Yeah. . That's right. That's great. Tell people where they can find deep listening. Find more about you and your worker. I invite you to share whatever you wanna share.

Oscar Trimboli (21:50): Look, uh, as much as I'd love you to connect with me, I'd love you to connect with your own listening and learn a little bit about your listening. So if you visit listening, you can take the seven minute quiz, you can find out which one is your primary listening villain and your secondary, and you'll be able to grab a report that gives you three tips to help you with your primary a listening villain. That way, like others, at a minimum, you can get 5% back in your schedule each week.

John Jantsch (22:20): Awesome. Well, Oscar, it was a pleasure having you stop by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time and hopefully we'll uh, run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Oscar Trimboli (22:30): Thanks for listening. Hey,

John Jantsch (22:31): And one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it @ Co check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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