An Exercise for Great Listening

If you don’t listen to people, you will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” – Anon

The number one way to show anybody that you care about them is to listen to them!  Let me share with you an exercise that exhibits the power of great listening. An exercise you can put to good use too.

It is a very simple exercise you can do at work, with prospects, home, and with friends. I call it the five-minute exercise. You can do it with two or three people, depending in part on how much time you have. Three is great because it allows one person to be an observer. It is a great exercise to go through after completing some program, announcement etc. as a way for people to process and share.

Person A will speak for five minutes about whatever the subject might be that day. It could be about sales, strategy, innovative ideas, or where they want to be in your career.  Person A will talk without interruption for a full five minutes. A warning is given when there is one minute to go.  What Person A does with their five minutes is up to them. If they get quiet, odds are they will think that staring at you is just way too weird and speak again, about anything.

Now Person B’s job is to just listen for five minutes, like some Buddhist monk. You just sit there. No sounds, hand gestures, nodding, nada. Only pure listening. No exceptions allowed. See if you can do it!

Note: if Person A were to pause…that is not an invitation for Person B to say anything. Ever. As the saying goes, your job is to let the silence do the heavy lifting. Given the space needed, they will begin again.

If there is a Person C, they can observe, sitting from the side, and then rotate into the next role so everyone gets a turn.

Once everyone has had their turn, you debrief the exercise. What did everyone observe or learn from the exercise?

I can tell you I have received profound responses. From bosses who realize they do not listen, to salespeople who admit the same. People have told me how much they learned about the other person in only a short five minutes. The exercise exhibits the power of being present with someone.

First, from Person A’s standpoint, people express how unique it is to speak for five minutes without being interrupted. When is the last time they have been able to do that, so they can also feel they are being heard? Second, some admit they were not as articulate about a matter as they thought they were. I see this around career planning discussions. As Mary Kay so famously said, “Most people plan their vacations better than their careers.” Which is a fact. Third, they have their own internal dialogue going on about how what they say will be received.

The exercise can give an awareness for the person speaking, that maybe I need to get my act together a little bit better.

Now we debrief the Person B experience of sitting there like a monk, not being able to say anything. Of course, they are going nuts listening to all this stuff spinning around in their head, while they are trying to be a good listener. They may be wondering if this person has an agenda or is being truthful…while they are trying to be a good listener.  They may be thinking about what they said when their turn, or how they will sound when their turn. Or what they must go home to tonight, or they left this morning, or what they have to get back to at the office.

With so many conversations spinning around, we have to force ourselves to be good listeners!

Remember, five- minutes of intense listening is magical. Try it around any subject. Try it at the office tonight. Try it at home tonight. They will wonder what happened to you today.

Who will you listen to today?



Don Phin is an advisor, presenter, and coach. He lives in Coronado, CA and can be reached at Visit his website for lots of free learning and tools

Hero Story

Don’t Let Your Story Kill Your Sales

Over the last few years, I’ve been doing a great deal of coaching and notice the power of the stories my clients tell themselves. So I whipped up this presentation for a client’s sales team… and they loved it. If you are up for it, I would love your feedback too! Brutal honesty will be appreciated. How can I make it even better?


How to Hire Your First Coach

“Does coaching work? Yes. Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will.”

Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

“To excel at the highest level – or any level, really – you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.”

Stephen Curry, NBA MVP and Champion

Even modest improvements can justify hiring a coach. An investment of $30,000 or so in an executive who has responsibility for tens of millions of dollars is a rounding error.

Jerome Abarbanel, VP of Executive Resources, Citibank

Executive coaches are not for the meek. They’re for people who value unambiguous feedback. All coaches have one thing in common, it’s that they are ruthlessly results―oriented.”

Fast Company


Most people have never hired a coach before. My coaches have been invaluable to my career and life in general. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting a great coach! The coaching journey often follows a five-step process as described below.

Step 1. The Initial Awareness

  • The need, want or desire for coaching usually comes from the feeling you are stuck. You wonder if coaching can help you grow beyond where you are today. You have a sense that “there is something better” that you are capable of…and you will do what it takes to get there.
  • You feel and want to meet the “high expectations” that come your way. As the Bible says “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This can feel like an overwhelming responsibility, and you want to make sure you are living up to it.
  • You like what you do…but want to be a better person doing it. Somebody suggested you might consider coaching…and so here you are!

Step 2. Why Coaching is Helpful

  • A coach is objective. A coach is not blinded by the stories you tell yourself. They can see your forest for the trees.
  • A coach is a great listener. They ask probing questions that cause you to dig deeper. Then they listen again, and again.
  • A coach is committed to your success. That is a coaches only agenda. They will be honest with you – even if that honesty hurts.

Step 3. Finding a Coach You Can Trust

  • Coaching is an intimate experience. Your coach must respect boundaries, keep confidences, and have their own act together.
  • Given my legal background, I know all about maintaining confidences. You can speak freely and openly and know it stays between us.
  • I have my act together. I keep a healthy balance between work, family, health, spiritual growth and finances. To stay on the path, I too have a coach.

Step 4. Experience It!

  • Coaching is an experience, not an intellectual exercise.
  • Most coaches, including me, will offer you a coaching experience at no cost.
  • You will experience being deeply listened to… maybe for the first time…in a long time.
  • You will receive honest feedback and coaching to improve the odds of meeting your most important goals.

Step 5. The Agreement

  • If you enjoyed the coaching experience, then come to an agreement with me or another coach and clarify your commitments.
  • You will be clear about objectives and goals, the number and timing of meetings, and the upfront fee.
  • Remember, coaching is not a “one and done.” It is an ongoing process for continuous growth and personal satisfaction.

You are invited to contact me by email at or call (619) 852-4580 to schedule a complimentary coaching session and see if coaching can work for you!