Listening: Three Tools to Maintain Focus

Listening: Three Tools to Maintain Focus

In order to be a good listener, consider these tools to help you maintain focus.

Do you find it difficult to maintain attention when listening to others? Most of us do.

My husband is a slow, thoughtful talker. He considers his words and their impact before uttering them. Meanwhile I’ve made assumptions about him as I wait for a response. I’ve either restated the question, thinking he did not hear me or I have given up on getting an answer and have moved to a new subject. Am I just a horrible spouse? No, I’m a normal listener.

We hear between 400-500 words per minute. Unfortunately, we speak at 135-150 words per minute. I use these tools to assist me in hearing what others say.

Tool #1: Watch Body Language for Mixed Messages

I love to observe Body Language. One thing I look for is to see if the words are congruent with the body language. In TV commercials, does the sales person shout about his “Best Deal in Town, as he shakes his head from side to side, negatively communicating his inability to deliver on his verbal promises?

One of the most well publicized examples of mixed messages is when former President Bill Clinton was questioned during the Monica Lewinsky trial. He verbally denied his sexual involvement with Ms. Lewinsky, all the while, his head kept bobbing up and down affirmatively.

Tool 2: Mirroring

To keep my attention focused on the speaker, I may mirror their body movements and posture. Two things are accomplished. It keeps me listening and watching them, while not allowing my mind to drift off. It also may make them more comfortable as my mirroring movements can show that I am similar to them.

Tool 3: Well Prepared Questions

Before all client meetings, I construct a set of well thought out questions that will uncover problems, detect dissatisfaction with the current service supplier and discover preferences, priorities, timelines and budgets.

To gather the data I need, I use a combination of closed and open-ended questions.

Closed –end questions are answered with a simple, one-word answer. It’s either YES or NO!

Open-Ended questions are best remembered as the 5-W’s and the One Big –H. For those who recall their writing professor’s lessons, every story must contain the answers to these questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

Listening gets easier when we’re equipped with tools that keep us anchored.

Mary A. Redmond is a professional speaker, author, coach and trainer. She specializes in negotiation, body language, listening and asking for more of what you want in your life at work, home or play. Contact her to speak at your next meeting, conference, trade show or special event., 913-422-7775.

Why You Should Talk to Customers Like They’re Hospital Patients

hospital pic

My husband recently had another surgery. In our 30 years together, he has had fifteen operations.

When a loved one is hospitalized, we often spend “quality” time with friends, family and hospital staff including physicians, surgeons, nurses, technicians, therapists, aides, volunteers, nutritionists, cafeteria employees, administrative personnel, and more.

We meet folks in stressful situations and may lash out due to a lack of eating and sleeping.

How do I avoid the title of “Witch Wife of Room #8223”?

I embrace the business communication skills that have served me for many years. The same principles for business negotiations apply when advocating for someone in the hospital.

  1. Listen. That means hear everything before asking questions. This rule applies to sales negotiators and patient advocates. In business, we may want to dazzle a prospect with product knowledge, but forget to listen to their experiences and problems.At the hospital, the post surgical update will be extremely brief if you frequently interrupt the surgeon with your vast medical knowledge gleaned from online research. The doctor is the expert, not you.
  1. Ask Smart Questions. In sales, we prepare for the prospect by assembling a list of appropriate questions. This demonstrates we’ve done our homework by researching the customer’s business, personnel, equipment, competitors and more.  Prior to and during the surgical updates, you’ll want to know as much as possible about the outcome, unexpected circumstances that will affect recovery, prognosis for future medical needs and comfort measures. Remember the surgeon is a human being, not God, and cannot predict the future.
  1. Be Patient with the Patient. They are the reason you are at the hospital. They’re more fearful than you are. Move slowly and deliberately around their room. Speak at a comfortable volume. Ask how you can help. Don’t assume they need assistance. Frequently, they want to resume self-care as quickly as possible.  In sales, don’t assume the prospect wants to change suppliers or needs your product or service. Your job is to uncover problems, diagnose needs, assess areas for improvement and then make a professional recommendation.
  1. Know When to Go Home. Do not take up residence in your prospects office or in the patient’s room. There is a time to exit. Know how to recognize the signs that visiting hours are over.

I am comforted knowing that business negotiation principles are helpful when I support someone I love.

Mary Redmond is a top-rated female professional speaker, author, consultant and business coach.  She is a negotiation and body language expert that instills confidence, inspiration and expert knowledge that sets up her audiences for success!








Negotiation: It’s An All Day, Every Day Necessity

ClockNegotiateNegotiation is an essential tool for everyone. You do not have to be in sales to be a masterful negotiator. One only needs to be conscious and breathing under your own power to negotiate.

You also need courage. It’s not easy for some of us bravely state our needs, desires, hopes and expectations to another human being who has the authority to respond with a Yes or No! We have no control over the response, but we can influence it.

At the core of negotiation is an opportunity to make a choice, state a request and accept the consequences.

You may not have viewed the following as examples of a negotiation. They all are:
• The morning breakfast choice debate: Lean, low-fat protein or sugar coated cereal.
• Justification of the happy hour networking over maintenance of a 4-times a week exercise regime.
• Compliance with a colleague’s request to “fib” to manager’s about our friend’s tardiness.
• Requesting a hotel room with a magnificent view or a concierge level deluxe accommodation?

Sometimes we negotiate with ourselves. My first and last negotiation of every day is with my alarm clock. As my head drops onto the pillow at night, I turn towards the alarm clock, mentally reviewing the upcoming day. Then I commence to negotiate with myself over what is the absolute last moment I can respond to the alarm and still make an on-time arrival for my first appointment

After a thoughtful mental justification exercise, I set my clock. As I set the alarm, I am fully cognizant that the moment the alarm goes off in the morning; I will again go into negotiation mode. The early-bird negotiation is frantic, not well thought out and is conducted in a sleep-coma thought process.

For all of us, a negotiation packed day follows. Most days include some or all of these communications:
1. The wardrobe color negotiation.
2. Who picks up the kids responsibility compromise.
3. The–it’s your turn to cook dinner “discussion.”
4. Who took “my” parking space inquisition.
5. Great reasons to delay the big prospect presentation because I’m not prepared enough debate.
6. The discussion and justification of why I should attend the January trade-show in Florida.

A day filled with compromise, concession, conciliation, collaboration and cooperation is exhausting.

At the end of the workday, we crave peace and quiet. Please—I want no more deal making. Cease the incessant demands. Stop the jockeying for position. Tomorrow is a new day.

Calm waters are ahead if we accept that we did our best. Additionally, realize that we have no control over how others react to our requests. Peaceful Negotiators understand that acceptance is the answer. They will live to negotiate tomorrow as they ask themselves, what time will I set the alarm clock for?

Mary Redmond is a negotiation expert that provides workshops, presentations and coaching for companies and organizations.  She is a well-known professional speaker, author and consultant that can help you achieve success.

I’m Uh, Glad to be Your Uh, Your Uh Speaker Today



As a professional speaker, I attend many conferences throughout the United States. Recently, I attended a luncheon with an audience of 500 business professionals. The speaker was a Vice President of a worldwide corporation with thousands of employees. My expectations for a highly informative  and detail packed speech were high.

The speaker had content of interest to the audience but the delivery was horrible. Why do corporations send out people who represent them poorly? Our speaker could have spread corporate good will, community pride and enthusiasm. Instead, they droned on for an excruciating 40-minutes.

Common Mistakes that Non-Professional Speakers Make

  1. Dependence Upon Filler Words: Examples of fillers are “uh”, “um” “and” “you know” and “so.” The speaker used the word “uh” over 100 times in 40-minutes. That’s 2 ½ “uh’s” every minute.
  2. The 100-Word Sentence. Excessive dependence upon the conjunctions “and” or “but” to string idea after idea into a boring soliloquy.
  3. PowerPoint Boredom. Each Slide was on the screen a minimum of 1 minute 20 seconds. That is too long to stare at the same screen with 20 or fewer words on it. Think of how long a 60-second commercial feels. We have become a nation with short attention spans.
  4. I Can Read. The Speaker recited the words on the slides to the audience. The audience was of an educational background that one could assume had the capacity to read.
  5. Give ‘em the Cold Shoulder. The speaker turned away from the audience and towards the screen, to read from the slide. The speaker flashed the “cold shoulder” every 1 and ½ minutes.
  6. Repetition. An effective technique, used by many professional speakers’ politicians and religious leaders. This speaker clearly was ill-prepared and lacked confidence.
  7. Don’t Read to Me. The only time the speaker did not use filler words was when they were reading directly from their prepared remarks. The “script” is an outline.
  8. Smile. An occasional smile helps to gain the audience’s attention, empathy and respect.
  9. Be Excited About the Topic. If the speaker was as bored with the presentation as the audience grew to be, we could have all gone home after coffee and dessert. No Harm, No Foul
  10. No Humor. A stand-up comedy routine was not expected. However, the question is often asked: “Does a speaker have to be humorous?” The answer is No, not unless they want to: A. Get Paid. B. Connect with the Audience. C. Be Remembered or D. Cause a change attitude, actions or point of view.

My next blog will give you some helpful tips. Be prepared for the next time you find yourself speaking in front of a small group, board meeting, your staff, a jury or even scarier, an audience.

Downsize to Survive

I am back and excited to blog again. I apologize to my friends and followers that I have been away from writing for eighteen months.

On a personal note, my husband and I finally decided to downsize. He had another major surgery in April of this year.

We are heading into a new phase of life. Small is better. What I found is that with our new little home (as of 1 week ago) the world feels more manageable. I finally feel I can write again.

Some of this blog may change focus as my life and I have changed. In addition I am working on an inspirational daily quote site. Stay tuned for that.  I hope you will like it. I will provide a link to it soon so you can subscribe to it at any time.

My new business address is 421 S. Bluegrass Drive, Bonner Springs, Kansas 66012. Our business phone number is 913-422-7775. My cell phone is 913-515-7779.

I am still a Professional Speaker and have developed several new workshops. One of the audience favorites is titled “Men and Women Show it Differently…Body Language that is.

Still under Development is another Body Language workshop titled Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Why should you care if men and women negotiate differently?

Recently, I was asked to present a negotiation workshop at a conference with more than 30,000 attendees.

While the industry is male-dominated, women have consistently risen through the ranks and today hold prominent positions at the top of many companies. Women sell equipment, run large purchasing departments and own businesses in this industry.

Knowing this, I proposed my workshop “Men and Women do it Differently…Negotiate, that is!” As you know, I speak on how we all need to understand the opposite sex as well as our own gender when we negotiate. This holds true in business and in our personal lives.

How well we listen to others and communicate with them directly affects our success and happiness. How we read and interpret body language is a big part of this too.

The speaker selection committee wanted my negotiation message. However, the committee did not think attendees (who they said are usually sales men and male business owners) would care that much about communicating better with women.

This is a shame, and very short-sighted. Men and women communicate differently. Understanding and appreciating these differences will only help everyone in business situations or, for that matter, in relationships they have throughout their lives.

The sad thing to me is that the committee consisted of three men and three women.

“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.”  –  Lois Wyse (1926 – 2007), Advertising Executive, Author and Columnist

“I haven’t even had a chance to be unreasonable yet!” – Chris Simms, Controller, Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP

What do you think about gender communication styles? Do you have a personal story you’d like to share?

If you want to learn more about how to improve your negotiation skills with the opposite sex, check out this CD.


“Everything is negotiable, if only you’d ask!”
Mary Redmond