Mrs Doyle has few pleasures in life … living as she does, on a small island off the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland. She spends her days tending to the needs of Father’s Ted, Jack and Dougal, keeping them well-fed and supplied with a steady stream of strong Irish tea.

But Mrs Doyle has a secret … when she’s not tending house on Craggy Island, she moonlights as the world’s leading authority on Active Listening. So adept is she at incorporating the 6 key steps of active listening into her daily interactions that it’s almost impossible to spot.

Watch this video closely, as she skillfully displays each active listening step and ask yourself how you might incorporate some or all of these behaviours into your daily business interactions. Don’t get too despondent if you struggle to master the steps straight away, it takes years to reach the level of effortless mastery which Mrs Doyle displays …

Video breakdown

Step 1 – Positive reinforcement

Although a strong signal of attentiveness, caution should be used when using positive verbal reinforcement. Positive words may be beneficial to the speaker in creating a sense of connection with the listener, however they should be used sparingly.

Mrs Doyle’s approach: Mrs Doyle’s use of “Ahh go on” is a textbook case of positive reinforcement, delivered in her own inimitable style.

Step 2 – Remembering

The human mind is notoriously bad at remembering details, especially for any length of time. However, remembering a few key points can help to reinforce that the messages sent have been received and understood – ie listening has been successful.

Mrs Doyle’s approach: By adeptly acknowledging that the television is broken ‘again’ Mrs Doyle creates a sense of continuity with her audience, demonstrating that she is an active participant in this conversation, rather than a passive bystander.

Step 3 – Questioning

The listener can demonstrate that they have been paying attention by asking relevant questions. By asking relevant questions the listener also helps to reinforce that they have an interest in what the speaker has been saying.

Mrs Doyle’s approach: Through her initial question “Ah is the television broken again Father?”, Mrs Doyle creates a sense of immediate connection with and empathy towards her audience.

Step 4 – Reflection

Reflecting is closely repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said in order to show comprehension. Reflection is a powerful skill that can reinforce the message of the speaker and demonstrate understanding.

Mrs Doyle’s approach: Watch how Mrs Doyle skilfully reflects Father Ted’s “I won’t have a cup” statement, turning it into a question “You won’t have a cup?” and then using that as the basis for moving the conversation forward.

Step 5 – Clarification

Clarifying involves asking questions of the speaker to ensure that the correct message has been received. Clarification usually involves the use of open questions that enables the speaker to expand on certain points as necessary.

Mrs Doyle’s approach: This may represent the world’s finest example of the art of clarification in action. Watch as Mrs Doyle seamlessly transitions through multiple iterations of clarification, effortlessly changing her tone and body language to maximum effect.

  • You won’t have a cup?
  • Are you sure now it’s hot?
  • Would you not have a drop?
  • Just a little cup?

Step 6 – Summarisation

Repeating a summary of what has been said back to the speaker is a technique used by the listener to repeat what has been said in their own words. Summarising involves taking the main points of the received message and reiterating them in a logical and clear way, giving the speaker chance to correct if necessary.

Mrs Doyle’s approach: I think I’ll leave the final word to Mrs Doyle on this one ….

This article with special thanks to the team at for their 6 Steps of Active Listening.

Cian McLoughlin is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of Rebirth of the Salesman, a regular keynote speaker at sales kick-off’s around the world and one of the Top 50 Sales bloggers in the world for the past 2 years. He is a passionate proponent of an ethical, honest and authentic approach to sales. His company, Trinity Perspectives, is committed to helping sales organizations unlock the latent potential of their customers’ insights with their Win Loss Analysis and Sales Transformation services. To read more of Cian’s sales articles visit

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