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Member Exchange - Speaking and Listening are many tools, articles, workshops and courses for effective communication skills. We’re just going to explore two key elements – speaking and listening. Sounds fundamental? You’re right – it is.

Language is the primary tool of a manager. It’s very difficult to encouragement engagement from your staff if they don’t follow what you want from them or don’t listen effectively. As a manager however, how clear are you in making requests, sharing the vision you have for the team and the business? We’re going to have a look at some key elements around speaking and listening. We hope that you’ll grow in your communication skills in order to lead and manager your people in the most effective way and keep your communication authentically you!

Key Speech Acts

  1. Assertions – we assert the existence of something – how things are (our observations). We believe our assertions are facts that everyone can understand.
  2. Assessments – we make interpretations, assumptions, judgements or have opinions about things.
  3. Declarations – a statement about what will be.
  4. Requests – we ask others to do something for us.
  5. Offers – we offer to do something for someone else.
  6. Promises – we commit to doing things. Assertions are statements describing what we observe. We believe they are right based on our observations. However, they may actually be true, false or pending because assertions need to be held as try by more than one person. Sometimes additional information needs to be gathered before we know for sure, one way or the other. We often make assertions based on our assessments without knowing all the information.

A very simple example of an assertion is “There are 12 chairs placed around the board table”.

An assessment about the chairs in the board room might be “These chairs are really comfortable to sit in”. While the chair may be comfortable to that individual, they may not be comfortable to someone who is of a different height and weight, or who has back issues. They may be thinking how uncomfortable the chairs are and wish they had their own office chair for the meeting. are judgements/opinions based on our perception of a quality we observe. Assessments may be based on evidence or past experiences or not. The vast majority of people live from their assessments, often believing they are facts (assertions). We tend to respond to present situations based on our assessments. Because of this, when we believe that our interpretations/assumptions/judgements or opinions are facts/truth – that’s when we run into challenges in our communication because we can’t understand why everyone doesn’t agree with us or understand the “facts” of the situation.

Declarations are statements that bring about a change to reality because the declarer has authority or a role to empower the declaration to change reality. For example:

Judges declare innocence or guilt; Umpire declare goal or out; Authorities declare rules/legislation; Celebrants/clergy declare married; JFK declares man will walk on the moon and come back safely…

Managers do have authority to bring about change – that’s one of the reasons why managers need to be such effective communicators and leaders. As business leaders they will be setting the direction and goals for the business and its teams.

Closely linked together are requests, offers and promises. These are self-explanatory really. Requests are when you ask for assistance. It’s a way of engaging people to assist you in taking care of your concerns. It’s a speech act to gain cooperation or “buy-in” from a listener to get them to engage in some action.

Offers are made to provide assistance, to demonstrate care about the concerns of others. The person making the offer realizes there’s something missing and they can help fix it or fill in the missing parts/skills etc.

Request + declaration of acceptance = Promise

Offer + declaration of acceptance = Promise

Promises are commitments or agreements to do something. They’re a way of coordinating action to accomplish things. Kept promises build trust and relationship. When we make a promise it’s our responsibility to deliver what we say we will to an agreed, satisfactory timeframe and standard.

The common challenge with requests and promises is that often we’re not clear in what we need – how, when and even why. So the person promising to assist doesn’t understand the expectations or standards we have. These are called “sloppy requests” and “slippery promises”.

For example: the manager asks their team member “can you please complete the stats report for me?”. The team member says “sure”. The manager clearly has a need for the report so we can assume there’s a format and time frame for this information to be given to the manager for their purposes. The team member is happy to do the report but doesn’t have a clear idea of time frame or even format (possibly) for the manager. At the end of the day when the team member is heading out of the office and the manager says “where’s my stats report, you said you’d do it for me”; the team member is going to be in an awkward position because they are going to do it, but they were very busy completing other work and had no idea of the urgency.

If the manager simply included a time frame and possibly a format with the initial request, the team member could make an appropriate promise in response. The sloppy request has produced a slippery promise.

“Can you please complete the stats report for me before 4pm today?”

“I’ll just finish what I’m working on now, which should still give me enough time to get it done.”

“Do you know which template to use?”

“Yes, I’ll use the one I saw last month if that’s the right one”.

It may seem clunky to give this much detail, but everyone knows where they stand so misunderstanding is less likely to occur.


As managers it’s important to bear in mind that what is said isn’t necessary what is heard. More importantly – listening isn’t the same as hearing. Listening requires active involvement and participation on your part. Also, letting the other person talk, whilst paying no attention, is not the same as listening; waiting for your turn to talk is not the same thing as listening; being caught up in your own thoughts and reactions is not the same as listening.

The rewards of true listening are worth the effort – your team members will reward you with trust, gratitude and respect and as a result are more likely to produce great results

Benefits of listening:

  • Your team member has an opportunity to share relevant information or content
  • Your team member feels understood for not only what they are saying, but for who they are
  • Your team member feels positively accepted and affirmed for who they are
  • Your team member has the freedom to process their emotions in order to better understand themselves
  • Your team member has the opportunity to find their own solutions and recognize their own wisdom
  • Your team member has the opportunity to explore and contemplate different approaches without risk

The “3 A’s” of Listening

Already listening

The automatic, unconscious lenses or filters, through which we listen, perceive, understand and observe the world that precedes anything that happens or is said. E.g. feelings toward another group (Management, HR staff, Patients, Doctors, Nurses etc.)

Always Listening beings are ‘always’ listening. We are ‘always’ silently talking to ourselves – interpreting what we think is happening. We may not be listening to what someone else is saying but our silent self-talk is always going on within us and that is what we are listening to e.g. Drifting off during a meeting

Automatic Listening

Our ways of listening and interpreting ‘just happens’ and we are often not aware of it – we are on ‘auto pilot’. We have no distinctions around how we listen – we just do it as we have always done it.

Being mindful of our assessments, our requests and being a proactive listener can assist us to manage both people and business needs more effectively.