Grunt if You Are Listening

There is no one for whom good communication is more critical than airline pilots. They MUST be able to clearly hear and understand the transmissions they receive.  But what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t stop there.  There is another step that is equally important in their communication model.

After receiving the transmission, they must CONFIRM that they received it.

Several years ago I had the occasion to fly in a small private plane to a job in North Florida where I had been hired as the opening motivational speaker for an event.  Here is the exact transmission I heard as I sat next to the pilot as he prepared to take off from our airport:

Controller:  “6686 Delta, taxi to runway 22.”
Pilot:  “6686 Delta, taxi to runway 22.”
Controller:  “6686 Delta, taxi into position and hold.”
Pilot:  “6686 Delta, taxi to position and hold.”
Controller:  “6686 Delta, cleared for take-off.”
Pilot:  “6686 Delta, cleared for take-off.  Starting take-off roll.”

The air traffic controller doesn’t ASSUME that the pilot hears what he is saying.  He expects confirmation that he was heard.

What a terrific model for all of us.  Here are a few applications:

  1. When you get an email, even if they don’t say “please get back to me,” hit reply and type, “got it, “thanks,” “I’ll check on this and get back to you,” “peace be with you.”  SOMETHING that let’s them know you got the message.
  2. When someone is telling you something, do not assume that simply giving them eye contact will indicate that you’re understanding.  TELL them that you understand, or if you don’t, tell them that you need more information.
  3. If a family member makes a comment like, “Wow, I really liked that movie.”  Give them SOME kind of indication that you heard them:  “Me, too,” “I’m not sure how I feel about it, “Well of course YOU would like it – you’re weird.” (Okay, maybe not that last one.)

Bottom line:  If you are the RECEIVER of someone’s message, in whatever form is appropriate, let them know you heard them.

Oh, you can “grunt” your response below.

From your personal motivational speaker, Linda Larsen


Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. “At least acknowledge that you heard me!” I am often known to scream say to my husband. You are right, Linda. One of our basic needs is to be heard and understood – and then know that we are heard and understood. And this can be very frustrating in life, and in the workplace, when our words seem to fall on deaf ears. So, yes, sometimes even a grunt or a nod will do. I try to get in the habit of saying (especially to clients on the phone): “So this is what I’m hearing you say.” This is a great way to affirm that you are listening, and then to impress them with the fact that you really were listening. This makes me a better motivational speaker, and woman in business.

    And especially when email comes into the picture. Email can be so unreliable, that we can’t be sure our communication did go through. I try to make it a point to answer emails with a quick “thanks, got it!”  Sometimes I forget, and inevitably they contact me asking me if I got it and I feel bad. It’s such a time sucker – having to acknowledge emails. But at this point, we don’t really have a way around it. 

  2. Linda, this is so true. When I send my own daughters an email, I often say at the bottom. “Would you please hit reply with a gotcha so I know you read?” You’d be surprised how few come back :-). I guess sometimes they just get tired of reading motivational speaker mother sharing another article on something I think they could benefit from reading.

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