Head chatter is what goes on in your head when someone is talking to you.

Next time you are in a conversation; listen closely. What does it say?

Reduce the noise

During the early days of my leadership career, my head was always full of chatter.

As an SME in my functional area, my head was full of solutions that I was going to respond with as people asked me questions.

Sometimes, I even zoned out when they were speaking to me as my head was so full of chatter.

As I grew as a leader, I started to reduce my head chatter by using active listening techniques I learnt on a course.

Do you know what happened?

People started to grow and the reliance on me started to reduce.

As the reliance on me dropped, more opportunities for my own career started to emerge.

It was a win win situation 🙂

Want to know more?

You do, well let’s try something for a week.

Question time

When someone is asking you a question, instead of thinking about the solution, I want you to think about the questions you can ask them.

I want you to help them find the solution for themselves.

Here as some questions I use –

  • Tell me about the problem in more detail.
  • What have you already tried?
  • Have you resolved something like this before?
  • What could you try?
  • What else?
  • What else?
  • What else?
  • What are the pros & cons of each option?
  • Taking everything into account, what do you think the best solution is out of the options you have come up with?

Can you write down 3 more?

The questions have to be open and thought provoking. One word answers are not going to help anyone.

Silence is golden

This is hard, but when you ask a question, pause as long as it takes for them to answer.

You will see from their body language that they are thinking, so let them continue.

Remember to bite your tongue, they will get there.


If they are stuck, then ask another open question to get them thinking more?

My favourites are –

  • What do you think I would do?
  • What would you tell a colleague to do?

Try them, see how they work.

Avoid why

When asking a why question, it can sound judgemental and can make the other person defensive. This will shut down their solution thinking while they think how to handle the judgement.

If I asked you the question why do you think that will work?

How would it make you feel?

What would you be thinking?

Let them fail

This is a hard one to do.

If they come up with a solution that they feel will work, but you know it won’t, let them fail.

If it does not cause any real problems for you or the company, what is the harm?

Are you ok with that?

If you are, this is the best way for them to learn.

When they come back, you can then reflect with them on the reasons it did not work and what they can try next.

Remember open questions, no solutions.


Each time you do this exercise with people, I want you to reflect on –

  • What questions worked well.
  • What did not go well
  • What you noticed about the other person
  • What you noticed about your self.

Take just one area of improvement and work on it next time.


This process will take more time than you want, but believe me in the long run, it is better for you, your team and the company you work for.

Wrap up

There is a lot more to active listening than I mention above, but this will get you started.

If you find this works for you, you should invest more time in learning about active listening techniques and practice them daily.

The more you practice the better off everyone will be.

It would be great to hear from you about this or any other question you have.

A lot of my readers contact me via LinkedIn.

LinkedIn – https://uk.linkedin.com/in/nfosterweb. LinkedIn will ask you for an email address, please use  nicholas.foster@develite.com

Speak soon



Categories: Leadership