Listen, you gotta hear this (what I’ve learned about listening)

Vulnerability Alert: After reading Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, I thought now would be a great time to discuss a little more vulnerable topic. Let’s talk about my last year and what I learned about listening.

To say this was a year of self-care, self-awareness and self-reflection is an understatement. I have learned a lot about myself.  I have learned a lot about people. I have learned a lot about a lot of things, and perhaps I will share all those learnings another day.

Today I wanted to share what I have learned about my own self-awareness around listening. I have been an inconsistent listener to say the least. I often don’t stay in the moment, I think about myself, my day, my next question, and how the person talking makes me feel. I bring in judgment and have my own intentions for the conversation. Now we can get into the psychobabble on why I have approached listening in this way, but I don’t think anyone needs the boring details of that.

I learned this year the importance of listening and how better listening skills can foster more meaningful relationships, real connections, and increased knowledge about myself and others. I care deeply about the people in my life and I want to have conversations that are balanced and supportive.

Listen up! Here is what I’ve got to share:

  • Being in the moment: Listening is about being in the moment and fully showing up for yourself and others
  • Feeling understood: When we talk we want to know we are understood. When we listen, the speaker wants to know they are being understood. Simply repeat back to the speaker what you think they feel so they can confirm or correct if you understand them. “You feel like no one at work is appreciative of your efforts and you feel not valued” might be an example of demonstrating that you understand
  • Clues to what is important: If you listen, you can determine what it is your friend, client, partner, or family member might be communicating regarding what is important to them. This can allow you to stop and prompt them to continue on the topic to help guide them in better understanding themselves and to feel connected as well as for you to better support them. It could also just mean talking more about what they are passionate about and what gets them excited and inspired
  • Empathic listening vs. problem solving: There are different kinds of listening. I was taught that two types of listening include to help solve a problem or to be empathic. Men in general often are more natural problem solvers as listeners and women are more natural at empathizing when listening.  Sometimes listening is just about giving a safe space to listen and provide empathy
  • Check your ego at the door: Most of the time it isn’t about you! We are often too quick to share a story, try to problem solve, try to relate or somehow bring our own ego into the conversation. We also start thinking about ourselves and similar situations we had and our own emotions and energies get involved. Remember, most of the time it isn’t about you, even when the other person might say it is. Also, getting defensive is usually not the best approach either. Your go-to should be empathetic listening
  • Neutral listening: Listening in a position of neutrality can be hard but try practising it sometimes by leaving your own emotions and opinions out and actively take in what is being said. Feel at ease knowing that you have no responsibility to provide any further action on this information other than being a receiver
  • Protect your energy: Sometimes you involuntarily listen to people or others can share upsetting topics that may not relate to you or they may project on to you. It is important to not absorb their negative energy when their topic or concerns have nothing to do with you. Often I will think in my head “projecting” when I know the speaker is offloading and I need to just listen, put my guard up and protect myself while still offering support and understanding
  • Ask what the listener needs from you: Sometimes it can be unclear what the listener is looking for regarding your attention and ear. Just ask them! Also, same goes for you. Ask for the kind of listening you may need. I often will have to ask my partner to provide empathy and support and that I am not looking for him to brainstorm or problem solve. This way I am setting him up for success as a listener
  • Plan for listening time: When people say to me “You’re not listening” I sometimes get frustrated if I was in the middle of a task that they interrupted and did not provide me with the opportunity to be able to fully engage. It is important that as both listeners and speakers that we recognize that some topics do require undivided attention and a little bit of planning can go a long way
  • Pause – not just for dramatic effect: It is important to pause. When you speak or others speak. It’s OK to fill space with silence to reflect on what was said. Try it. You will be surprised how much insights can come to light or how deep the topic will go with a little pause
  • Stop what you are doing: With all the distractions we can have it is increasingly important to make a conscious effort to stop what we are doing and provid our undivided attention. People remember how you make them feel. When you can take 5 to 10 minutes of your day to just be there fully, it creates trust in your relationship and helps the person feel cared for
  • Remove judgment: It is very natural to bring in judgements as we listen and communicate. It may be hard to completely remove judgment but to simply recognize that you have made a judgment (mostly based on your own insecurities) allows you to quickly remove that judgement and move your attention back to the speaker
  • Recommend additional support: People can confide in you with concerns that you may feel are best for someone with more experience in those particular topics. It is 100% OK to say that you want to support them the best you can but you don’t feel like you have the expertise to provide guidance and recommend that they consider seeking professional support
  • Listen to yourself: Listening doesn’t just need to be about taking in other people’s verbal cues. You can pick up on your own thoughts and determine how you feel by tuning in, trusting your gut and listening to what your body and mind are trying to tell you. Make time to be your own listener. I meditate, journal, walk my dog in silence and practice yoga and reiki. Not just woo-woo, there is lots of science behind the importance of listening to yourself, too.


“My motto, my broadcast motto all my life, I never learned anything when I was talking.” Larry King


So you’re thinking about starting a VA biz?


Hi there!

I have created a FREE nine-page resource full of information on how my Virtual Assistant friend and I started our VA businesses.

Please watch my short intro video below that explains why my friend Chido and I collaborated on the “So you’re thinking about starting a VA biz?” resource guide. This is a free resource that walks you through the steps we took to establish our services, build a brand, and find ideal clients. We share our favourite tools, tech, and training as well.



In this guide you will learn about:

Our journey

Reasons to start a Virtual Assistant business

Fear kiboshing

Getting ready

You, your services & clients

Setting up – the paperwork and financials

Recommended tools, tech and training


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What I learned about my Google Home in 48 hours

As someone who works online on average eight to ten hours a day, Google Home and Amazon’s Echo are two game-changing gadgets that caught my attention. As a Virtual Assistant, the idea of having my own “Assistant” was intriguing, and I needed to know more about 2017’s hottest electronic. I spent a couple of hours watching YouTube videos and reading tech reviews comparing the Echo and Google Home.

I also interrogated my tech-savvy neighbour and received his glowing recommendation on the Google Home for the ability to control his Philips Hue lights, music, and heating for the house. He also loaded his house up with the Google Mini for surround sound and full household support. He laughed when he shared “My daughter’s first words will be OK Google”.

As a huge fan of Google myself, it seemed like the obvious choice for our family. The online reviews overall pointed out that Google Home could “do” more than the Echo and improvements are always being made. “OK Google, cook me dinner” “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that yet”. Perhaps soon?

Here is a quick summary of what I have learned about my Google Home in the first 48 hours of setup:

First of all, it is so simple to setup and get started with an App on your phone. It has multi-user capabilities, and it remembers the unique preferences of the individuals in your household by voice. Wowzers!

Things I have learned that Google Home can do:

Set your name to whatever you want – I stuck with Tonya, but I will have more fun with this in the future
Check weather
Check traffic
Check transit times
Check news
Check time
Check sport scores
Control volume
Ask questions
Call contacts
Play music using Spotify or Google Play (subscriptions needed)
Play podcasts
Pause and resume music and podcasts
Play music, meditation music or sleep music for “X” amount of time (good for nighttime)
Play nature sounds
Play trivia
Ask for a joke
Ask for “X” animal sound
Ask math questions
Check stocks and currencies
Fact check
Set timers
Set alarms
Check your schedule for the day
Control your heat with Nest
Control your lights with Philips Hue light bulbs or similar
Add items to grocery lists
Add tasks to Google Keep
Ask Google to remember things for you
Call your phone to find it “OK Google. Find my phone” followed by your phone ringing
Step by step instructions for recipes when cooking or baking
Ask it to talk dirty
Send text and emails
Ask “What does the Fox say?”
Control your TV via ChromeCast
Ask it how to say things in different languages
Set a morning routine using IFTTT APP and say “Good Morning Google” to turn on lights, heat and music for example (same for Good Night Google).

What I don’t love so far:

  • You have to say “Hey Google” A LOT! You can’t ask consecutive questions. You always have to say “OK GOOGLE” first. This becomes annoying for anyone in the room who is not asking the questions. A bit like when someone is practising an instrument. Only fun for the player
  • You can’t change the name or how you address it only “OK Google” or “Hey, Google”. I wish I could name it like you name a pet – Hey Rex!
  • Only a few different voices to choose from – would love if you could have Darth Vader or Sean Conery. I am sure this will be a feature soon
  • Sometimes when I talk to my Google Home, the Google Assistant on my phone gets activated
  • Sometimes when I talk to my Google Assistant on my phone, Google Home gets activated
  • When music is playing, Google Home has trouble hearing me so I start shouting so it will turn off – annoying
  • Sometimes the music is loud and Google Home can’t hear me so I need to get up and turn it off – extra annoying
  • It can be glitchy in that the music occasional stops and starts
  • Sometimes it doesn’t know how to help me even though it has helped me with the same task before
  • It sometimes thinks I am asking for music or a show when I am asking a question
  • Most recently it didn’t stop playing music and I had to unplug it
  • It does not seem to do much more than what my phone, TV and Spotify account can do individually and with more effort – it just is the one place to do it all
  • It needs to be plugged in for power – why isn’t there a docking system that I can take it off and move it around the house in the room I need like the bedroom and kitchen?
  • I think it’s weird that it’s designed as an air freshener looking gadget when there are much more fun ways it could have been designed.


I can’t tell if this is going to be an essential system for my sanity and productivity or if this will be a novelty product that makes me lazier until something bigger and better comes along. Only time will tell. I believe that Google Home is still a baby and as more companies start producing products to sync with it then it has the potential to become the next extension of ourselves, much like the mobile phone.

The real mystery,“Is the Google Home always listening?”. To be continued…

What are your favourite Google Home features?

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