Coming Together Face to Face


Becoming an Active Listener


Lesson Info

Coming Together Face to Face

So let's move on to kind of like face to face. Do we have the communication skills? We've talked a lot about the fact that we live our lives behind screens these days and so kind of like some our interpersonal skills when it comes to coming face to face are probably a little rusty. There's also some skills that we actually are just not very good at. And what we probably don't realize is that when we come face to face, it gives us access to all of our skills, verbal and nonverbal. Only 38% of our communication comes from voice, only 7% comes from words. Words are actually the least important. And isn't that fascinating? So the words that we say, we spend so much time thinking about the words and listening to the words but what we're not doing is watching the body language, listening to the tone of voice. And body language obviously breaks down into kind of several different things. But active listening is just much more successful if you're face to face. On the phone, you have tone of v...

oice and words but you can't see people's eyes, you can't see their body language. So you're basically missing out on 55% of how people communicate. So nonverbal communication. So have you ever been in a situation where you really don't believe what somebody is saying? And perhaps it's because you sense something from their body language. The classic example of this is when somebody's trying to lie, right? They may sound very confident in what they're saying but if you actually look at their body language or their facial expression, you can usually pick up whether or not they're actually telling you the truth. So the difference between the words people say and what they actually mean can actually be very different. They can be incredibly different. So body language, facial expressions, how you negotiate spacial space. If you think about kind of like some people are very touchy feely in terms of some cultures are very touchy feely. How do you negotiate that? Other cultures are very kind of like hands off. So all of that actually gives you clues as to kind of like how the person is feeling, whether they're feeling comfortable or not. So what you need to do is really kind of like understand both facial and body language. So here's another question, how do we know if somebody is upset with us even when that person hasn't said a word? What are some of the things they can do to kind of like show you that they're upset? From the face expression. The facial expression, right, exactly. And the body language as well. Body language. So but what kind of specifically would they do? They probably like screw up their face or-- They close themselves. They close themselves off, yeah, that's absolutely right. Probably not breathing. Not breathing, yeah, a little hyperventilation going on. They can turn themselves, they don't really open-- Yeah, they walk away, right? That's the most obvious one, they walk away from you. So again, it's like this is where you can kind of like really begin to pick up and when you're trying to be an active listener, you have to clue yourself into all of those pieces. As I said, 7% is words, right, so everything else becomes really, really important. The way we move speaks volumes. I mean, obviously there are great artists that move amazingly well, right? There are like dancers and choreographers and even athletes, they are great artists when they are kind of like on the field. And so this is a great quote from an actress, "Before you get into the mind, "you have to inhabit the physicality. "Body language is a great way of speaking." Now dancers obviously are the best at that, right, 'cause that's what they do. They use their bodies to speak. But body language is a great way of speaking, how you use your hands, what's happening with your face. So think about that in terms of are you kind of like a person that is very demonstrable with your hands? Is the person that you're talking to incredibly demonstrable with their hands or not? Or are they closed? Are they sitting with their arms crossed? So really look for body language and it can be pretty subtle but it is an interesting thing to do. And what I do sometimes is actually turn off the sound on a television show and see how much you actually understand from the body language. 'Cause people are actually expressing facial expressions and body language. A picture is worth a thousand words. Can you read a face? This is one of the hardest skills to learn. Over 60% of us are just really bad at it. The only reason I got good at it was because when I first came to the States, I was working for Chiat Day Advertising and part of my job was to do focus groups. And I always thought that my, so I'm in a room with a group of strangers, and behind the glass is the client and the creative team, and I'm presenting a creative idea that the agency wants to kind of like obviously take to commercial or whatever. And so I'm sitting there thinking that the reason I'm there is to make sure that we get the answers that we wanna hear. And so I'm sitting there, I'm so worried about what the client's gonna say. The creative team's probably gonna kill me if people don't like the creative idea. And so I'm constantly thinking of it that, I'm not watching really what's going on. I'm trying to steer the conversation my way. And then suddenly, and so basically I actually was pretty lousy at moderating focus groups, right? Because it was all about me and not about them. And that happens in meetings all the time and it happens in conversations all the time. Where it's all about them and they're not really listening to what's going on. And then one night I was actually watching a really great moderator moderate a panel of journalists. And I suddenly, the ah-ha moment for me was you know what, my job is to shut up. The best moderators, if you watch them, hardly say a word. They'll ask a question and then they get out of the way. They get out of the way. And so that for me was my ah-ha moment and so what I did then the next time I went into the focus group is I didn't worry about who was behind the glass, I didn't worry about whether or not, what I understood was, my role was to sit and listen for comprehension, not how I was gonna respond but to sit and listen for comprehension. What am I here to understand? And then how can I better understand that by watching for contradictions? Again, are they saying something but their facial expressions or their body language is saying something different? How can I ask open ended questions so that I better understand why they're reacting to something within the creative idea? And kind of like whether or not it's a fundamental issue or just a misunderstanding on their part. So that for me was my ah-ha moment when all of a sudden I thought, "Gosh, I have to actually sit and watching these people, "I really have to watch these people "to make sure that I'm truly understanding them." And even though I did that in focus groups, it took me a while to translate it to everything else. Because I isolated it, right? I was like okay, there's my little box, I'm going to do my focus group and I'm gonna be a really good active listener. I'm gonna be a fantastic moderator, but then I didn't translate it. And that also happens to us as well sometimes is we don't translate a skill that we learn at work into a skill that we can actually think of as helping us in our life, as we were talking about earlier. So, watching faces, sorry I got off on a tangent there, watching faces is really, really important and we're not very good at it because we don't watch for the subtleties and it's the subtleties that really matter in faces. So 60% of us have a hard time actually reading faces. And we really do need to pay very close attention to the subtleties. This is probably one of the trickiest things about active listening is watching faces and just watching for those little subtleties. As I say, the best practice I've found is turning off the sound on a TV show or a movie or sitting in a cafe and watching a conversation that's happening on the other side and watching people's faces and how they're moving their hands and their bodies. You can begin to really get into tune with the subtleties. But it is a tricky one. Okay, I need two volunteers. Who wants to volunteer to come up here and sit and do a little exercise so that we can. Yeah, you can volunteer? Thank you. One, who else wants to volunteer? Somebody come join me. Yes, who's gonna come join you? Anybody gonna come join you or shall I do it with you? Shall I do it with you? Sure. Okay, so what we're gonna do is, I'll sit here. You're going to, I don't know whether you want to go first, do you wanna tell a story or do you want to be the person listening to the story? I'll listen, I didn't come with a story. You didn't come with a story, okay. So what I want you to do is I want you to not make any expression whatsoever as I'm trying to tell my story. Okay. Straight faced, don't move. Okay, that's really hard. (laughing) It is, isn't it? But straight faced, don't move, or if you want you can pretend to be distracted. Okay. Okay, so you can pretend that you're on your phone and you just kind of look up, okay? And I will try and tell you a story. Now what story am I gonna tell you? See, it's hard. Hmm, okay, so this morning my puppy, that was incredibly wet when she came in from her walk, and it was really, really tricky for me to get her to sit still to get me to dry her off. And she ended up going all around the apartment and ended up slamming herself onto the bed and leaving an incredibly, an incredible mess all over the bed. Now, it's very difficult for me to keep telling the story when she is making no reaction whatsoever, right? Because you get put off. I mean, I was put off by the fact that I'm not getting a reaction. I'm talking about a puppy for heaven's sakes, right? People normally react to puppy stories. It was really hard to not react. And it's really hard not to react. But imagine that in a more important situation. And I had this happen to me, I've built a lot of teams, I've managed a lot of teams and quite often what happens is somebody will come into your office and how many times do you walk into somebody's office or having a conversation with a client or just even a conversation with a friend and they just keep doing what they're doing? And they say that they're listening to you but they're clearly not either because there's no expression on their face, they're clearly thinking about 10 other million things. And so what I used to do was whenever anybody, one of my staff, would come into my office, I would literally, I had a table and some chairs and so literally I would walk away from my desk and I'd have the conversation there. Because in doing that, I am showing to them that I am present for them, that I have the time, I'm gonna take the time and I'm gonna sit and listen to you. So I walked away from everything. But there's very, very few people that do that. But it's really difficult, right? It's much more difficult if I say, this morning, and you can react, this morning my puppy was incredibly wet when she came back in from (laughs) and she ran all over the flat and ended up of course deciding that she wanted to kind of like jump all over the bed. So there I have now, at home I have this really wet duvet. And it's easier for me to react to you and easier for me to even smile and keep the story going because I know that she's present. So facial expressions, I've presented to a lot of people who just do the stony face. Have you ever had that when you're presenting creative work and they're just like this stony face? And how does that make you feel? Yeah, even worse if they make the face that doesn't have anything to do with what you're saying and so it's so clear that they are thinking about something else. Exactly They're not listening to you at all. Exactly, right, they're not listening to you, they're not present or they're deliberately trying to stonewall you so that you don't know whether they like something or not. Which is just rude because you've put in all this work and you're presenting it. You can go back to your seat now. You're presenting it and you kind of like have no idea of what they're thinking about. So, practice by observing. So for facial expressions and body language, we talked about this a little bit, just practice by observing. When you're sitting in a cafe having coffee, watch people, watch people. Watch people walking down the street, how they're moving, how they're moving, what their expression on their faces are. As we said, turn the sound off the TV. But I just can't stress the importance of the facial expressions and body language 'cause it's something that we really ignore a lot. And it takes time to kind of pick up on that for people.

Class Description

When we talk about good communication skills, we usually focus on how we speak—our tone, stance, confidence, and ability to effectively convey our message. But communication is a two-way street. Just as important is our ability to listen.

Listening, as opposed to simply hearing, is active not passive. Active listening requires concentrating on what’s being said, giving our full attention to the speaker and providing visual cues that we are truly understanding. Active listening is one of the most powerful skills for building deeper, more productive connections.

In the digital age, when many of us spend more time in front of a screen than face to face with others, it’s more important than ever to understand the fine art of listening.

Gaynor Strachan Chun, renowned marketer, speaker and thought leader, will address the barriers to and benefits of active listening, and help you develop a skill that will bring more trust and respect to your business and personal relationships.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid being misunderstood, misconstrued and on “the ladder of inference.”
  • Overcome the barriers to being an active listener.
  • Use visual cues such as nodding and smiling to demonstrate listening.
  • Respond to your interlocutor with eye contact and nonverbal sounds.
  • Focus fully on the what’s being said and not get distracted.
  • Have the right posture to convey active listening.



Gaynor provides insight and practical tips for improving active listening skills that are valuable in both business and personal relationships. This class breaks down why active listening is important in furthering communication which leads to greater creativity and productivity. Gaynor has shown me that practicing active listening will help me empower others and make my work more impactful.


Valuable, applicable and productive course. Gaynor presents the topics so well and applies takeaways that can be put in motion immediately. Highly recommended!