Enhancing your listening skills by repeating words and phrases


11 Apr 2012 |  for trainees | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory


Repeating back a word or phrase can be a powerful way to encourage someone to say more.


Here’s something you might like to try in your conversations with those around you.

    When the other person finishes speaking, simply repeat back a word or phrase from their last sentence. There isn’t a “right” one to choose, so it’s not crucial which word or phrase you pick:

      Them: ”I’m the regional manager of the second largest caravan sales company in the south east region.”

      You: “caravan sales”

      or “South East”

      or “regional manager”

      or “sales”

      or “second largest”

      or “caravan”

      or “sales company”

      or “regional”

      or …

      Them: “Yes, the interesting thing about that is …

Have you heard the phrase “All roads lead to Rome”? Whichever word or phrase you use, the speaker will tend to relate it back to what’s going on for them, so if you are listening sensitively then the same issues are likely to emerge in the end, whichever route you take to them.

Using words or small phrases like this lets you “nudge” the conversation in various directions, without posing too many restrictions on the speaker. Mentioning a particular word or phrase puts the focus on it but the speaker is free to interpret the importance of it in terms of their concerns, their interests, their problems, so they’re less likely to feel as if the conversation is being diverted by your own interests.

As you learn to do this more and more naturally, you may be surprised to notice how long you can keep the conversation flowing using only this technique and minimal encouragers like “uh-huh”, “yes” and nodding.


A recent study that ranked orchestra musicians by skill and virtuosity, and which also listed them in order of how many hours of practice they’d had over the years, found that the people who came out top on both lists were the same – an overriding factor to becoming a maestro in their field turned out to be practice.

As you practice these skills more and more, you will achieve a sense of mastery more quickly.



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