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Consistently in the past year during my motivational interviewing trainings, there are several participants that state they want to “improve their listening skills”. They realize the value of paying attention and consciously listening to patients, clients, participants, and team members. With the constant demands and noise all around us, it is getting harder and harder to listen fully.


To listen fully, we need to be aware of our filters. According to sound expert Julian Treasure & Listen Consciously, we have filters we use that create our own reality and tell us what we are paying attention to. The filters we create include:

  • culture
  • language
  • values
  • beliefs
  • attitudes
  • expectations

The key is to be aware of these possible filters, put them aside, and go into the conversation with an open mind and heart.

Conscious Listening

Julian Treasure warns us about losing our listening since we have so many distractions around us which kills conscious listening. Conscious listening, he says, leads to understanding.

Treasure shares ways to re-tune our ears for conscious listening — to other people and the world around you. These exercises can improve our listening:

  1. Silence: Silence of 3 minutes a day helps to reset our ears to quiet so that we can listen well. Drive, walk or ride to or from work in silence. Turn off the music, news and podcasts. Just be in silence for 3 minutes.
  2. The Mixer: Even in a noisy environment, try to listen to as many individual channels as you can hear and differentiate. If you are in a coffee shop, try to listen to the different side conversations: the barista, individuals at the table next to you, the door opening and closing as people come in and go out. This helps us focus and differentiate between different conversations.
  3. Listening positions: Move your listening position to what’s appropriate – active/passive or critical/sympathetic. This helps you become conscious of barriers/filters to listening.
  4. Savoring: This is about enjoying the most mundane sounds. For instance, the tumble dryer of a washing machine. We can enjoy any sound as long as we listen. When outside, listen to the birds, the leaves rustling against the branches of the tree, a car driving by or a voice in the distance.

These activities enhance our listening skills. Which item will you be conscious of today? Which listening exercise will you try today?

Listen consciously to live fully, connected in space and time to each other.
Julian Treasure

If you know of others, perhaps your leadership team or a friend, who would be interested in learning more or receiving this and other blog posts, please feel free to forward to those individuals.

If you are interested in bringing me to your organization for a refresh training or coming to a public training, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a comment or email at beckylang@icloud.com.

Tranform Conversations. Transform Lives.
Dr. Becky Lang

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“Dr. Lang’s training provided me with a better understanding of the motivational interviewing process. The skills I learned from her training have helped me feel more engaged and thoughtful when listening and talking with those around me. Dr. Lang is energetic, knowledgeable, passionate and provides a great learning environment.”

Nancy AdrianseBSDH, Oral Health Manager, Iowa Primary Care Association

“The training I received in Becky’s motivational interviewing class was invaluable. It laid a wonderful foundation for me to effectively empower my patients to develop and implement positive changes for their health. Becky created such a nurturing, nonthreatening environment that allowed me to freely learn and practice. This is certainly a class I can recommend to anyone wanting to learn to assist others with behavior changes.”

Robin GeorgeRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“At the YMCA, we have worked with Dr. Becky Lang for over a decade now to help us shift and shape our culture. As an organization committed to strengthening our community, the coaching and training skills that Dr. Lang has provided have helped us immensely. With her education and guidance she has helped us establish a culture that focuses on building meaningful relationships with our members, focusing on their needs, and coaching them towards success in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Lang has trained all levels of our staff from our front line Wellness Coaches to our Executive Directors and Leadership Teams. Her on-going support has allowed the coaching-culture to come alive in our organization.”

Kim Stewart Kim Stewart Director of Operations, YMCA of Greater Des Moines

“The training Becky provided has been one of the most rewarding nursing experience I have had in 30 years. The style of interviewing and teaching patients is rewarding and positive. Her techniques drive the sessions to be more personal and patient-centered. Through Becky’s teaching, I was comfortable to practice and get familiar with the motivational interviewing process. Becky is an exceptional trainer and I recommend her training to all health coaches and educators.”

Sandy LovelessRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“The motivational interviewing techniques Becky teaches allow patients to set goals and work toward changes that are important to them. Patients feel in control of their own health and allow me to be in a more supportive roll. Becky has a positive and uplifting spirit that makes her classes extremely enjoyable.”

Tyra CarltonRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“Rebecca Lang was a respected colleague who diligently served as a teacher and mentor to hundreds of students over her long career at Grand View University. I had the distinct pleasure to work with Becky and regularly witness her vocation to Wellness education. She motivates those around her by a strong and genuine commitment to a lifestyle which promotes health and well-being.”

Katharina TumpekPhD, Professor and former Chair, Dept. of Health Promotions, Grand View University

“It has been a pleasure to work with Becky Lang over the last 25 years. Within a variety of contexts in the wellness arena, I have witnessed Dr. Lang’s mastery as a wellness educator, a health coach, a professor, and, most recently, as a health coaching trainer. I could go on at length about Dr. Lang’s passion, enthusiasm, high energy, wisdom, and deep knowledge in health promotion and behavior change. One of the attributes that impresses me most, though, is her ability to create a relaxed, fun, interactive, and content-rich training environment. Her refreshingly supportive, inviting, and empathic style of training and coaching allows learners to take risks, experiment, try on new skills, and participate authentically in role play exercises without feeling awkward and intimidated. Through Dr. Lang’s coaching and training, people learn–often more than they imagined.”

Jill NorrisRN, MPH, PCMH-CCE, Director, Care Management, University of Iowa Health Alliance