Be FAB to be heard

This blog post explains the basics of FAB communication. FAB is a simple acronym to help you remember what people want to hear and what they don’t. Talk FAB and you have more chance of being heard. Talk FAB and you have more chance of getting what you need from your communication.


In training with IT consultants, I ask them to create a short personal CV for a potential client. I ask them for qualities that would be interesting for their clients.

I tend to get a lot of answers like:

  1. Organisational Skills
  2. Degree in Engineering
  3. Bilingual French and German


F = Features …and basically: No-one cares

For me, the types of answer noted above are simply features of the consultant. Things they are or things they do. Most people don’t care about features because they simply aren’t interesting.


A = Advantages …which are already much better

An advantage is defined as what makes it better to have “F” than not have “F”. So I ask the consultants to translate their features into advantages.

This is what I get (respectively, for the aforementioned “F” answers):

  1. Able to efficiently organise workload and ensure that priority work is finished on time
  2. Able to understand complex ideas and translate them into models and processes
  3. Can talk to Swiss customers

Already much better!! …but….


B = Benefits …and this is what people care about

In fact, let me slow down a bit. What DO people care about? Do I care about you? No! I care about me… and despite my wife and mother telling me to be less egoistic, I WILL ALWAYS CARE ABOUT ME.

Just like the procurement people looking for IT consultants care about themselves and their companies. So: We need to show the benefits of our advantageous feature. This means tuning in the advantage the situation, values and needs of the other person.

3 more examples:

  1. Ensure on-time delivery of new IT projects
  2. Help your people to implement new processes by defining clear and easy to follow steps
  3. Increase sales in Switzerland by streamlining customer communication

(…notice how the 2nd and 3rd benefit statements include a clear reference to the “A” statement) Now that’s more like it!!


In conclusion…

Translating your features in to advantages that are beneficial for the other person is key to getting them to listen, care and act …and the applications go a lot further than selling IT consultants.

Here are a few examples of moments when FAB communication would be good:


Convincing your partner to take a different route to your holiday destination

  • F = road name
  • A = what makes that road better
  • B = why your partner should care

A strong WIIFM statement in a presentation introduction

  • F = “I will tell you about 1, 2, 3”
  • A = Why 1, 2, 3 is good
  • B = What you will get out of listening to me

The opening paragraph of this blog-post:

  • F = “FAB is a simple acronym to help you remember what people want to hear and what they don’t”
  • A = “Talk FAB and you have more chance of being heard”
  • B = “Talk FAB and you have more chance of getting what you need from your communication”


I hope you liked this post and I hope you are ready to be FAB.

Feel free to leave a comment..



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Active Empathy

We all know what active listening means, right? ..and of course, everyone knows what empathy is!

Well today I have coined this term: “Active Empathy”

Read on…


Empathy does not mean “seeing things from your point of view” …

When I started up in Sitel some years ago, the training guys told me that “empathy” was the key to call-centre client handling. They told me that you have “to see things from the point of view of other people”. But its not that easy!

Suppose I am looking at the world through my yellow glasses and you are looking at the world through your red glasses… If I come over to your point of view and look at the world, I will see it in orange! This is no good to anyone !

What we need first is to put our own point of view “on hold”. This “on hold” will allow me to get a better perspective of how you see things.


…but putting my opinion on hold is not enough to understand your point of view

Suppose then that I drop my own yellow opinions and come to have a look at things from where you are standing. What will I see? Who knows?!? …but I am still not wearing your red glasses, so it won’t be a world of red. What I need is to first look AT YOUR GLASSES and try to get a feeling for …. hear it comes … the key ….. your SITUATION, VALUES and NEEDS.

(If I get THAT, they I may actually later be able to look at the world THROUGH YOUR RED GLASSES. Or, as Harper Lee put it in “To Kill a Mocking Bird” ….”climb into their skin and walk around in it”)


Looking at other people’s Situation, Values and Needs requires real listening

In my training courses, I help participants discover the skill of real listening. To really listen, you need to do 3 things:

  1. Drop your ego and stop making assumptions
  2. Ask open questions
  3. Drill down to understand structural terms used by the other person

…we all know this, but its amazing how much we DON’T do it.


If you have actively listened and been truly empathic, its time for “active empathy”

It is not enough to understand other people. You need to SHOW you have understood them.

At Sitel, they told me that you should say things like “Ah-ha, I understand” and people will feel like you understand them. This point has been proven to be rubbish 100 times with my wife. No matter how much I say “I understand”, she still doesn’t believe me! (The fact it, I probably don’t understand her as I tend not to drop my ego much, but that’s another question…).

What is active empathy? Its SHOWING you have understood the situation, values and needs of another person. Showing WHAT you have understood….


Here are 8 key competences for active empathy

  1. Time, patience and a truly caring attitude
  2. Active listening (as described above) 
  3. Attention to detail (body language, reactions, phrasing, expressions etc)
  4. Don’t say you HAVE understood. Say WHAT you understood.
  5. Repeating and rephrasing structurally important words and ideas expressed by the other
  6. Usage of words and terms employed by the OTHER person when talking with them
  7. Matching the preferred communication style of the other person (with for example speech patterns, body language, level of detail)
  8. Collaboration: Work together for the greater good


In a nutshell, active empathy is:

  • Drop your ego –> Active listening –> Look at the glasses of the other person
  • Understand –> Show them you have understood


Thanks for reading!

Feel free to comment

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Leadership resources from a recent Kluwer training

Having just completed delivery of a 4-day Leadership Training with @KluwerOpleiding (thanks @MiekWouters for the chance to have a small group :-)) I thought I’d share the email stream that built up from me to participants over the 4-days. Loads of references here…


References DAY 1


Homework / Preparation DAY 2


References from DAY 2


Homework in preparation for DAY 3

  • Think of a problem you have (professional or personal). This will be used in day 3. You will be asked to state your problem and ask for help…
  • Think of a difficult communication situation or difficult person you have had to deal with (personal or professional)


Here are the references from training DAY 3


Homework in preparation for DAY 4

  • Prepare a 1 minute presentation of yourself – anything is fine, we just need some data to use for a feedback exercise, so no stress!
  • Please think about additional topics to cover in group coaching session in the afternoon of Day 4


References DAY 4


Hope this was interesting

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Top 10 email tips for business

During training last week, we created a list of 10 top tips for effective emailing in a corporate environment. These tips are all aimed at getting maximum return-on-investment for both you and the reader.

My visiting client confirmed that these tips were really important in his company. He added that you should consider every email you send as an indicator of your “employee brand”. If you want to be thought of as professional, useful, intelligent, well-structured and generally a good colleague, try these email tips. If not, prepare to be deleted….


  1. Only send email to the right relevant people
  2. Start with a clear subject
  3. Get to the point
  4. …but use adapted politeness and “friendly stuff”
  5. Use a simple airy structure
  6. Only include the minimum effective dose of content
  7. Use “email intonation” and formatting to underline important points
  8. Avoid emotion, blame and other non-professional email content
  9. Make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct and adapted to the audience
  10. Re-read before sending


Also worth a read: Email Charter proposed and adopted by @DanielPink and many others

How people pay attention …or why nobody else saw the Herbalife posters!

(Part 2 of the blog-entry “Why I see Citroen Xsara Picasso’s everywhere and why you should care“)


Last week I was travelling to Barcelona. As I boarded the plane, I passed a man 2 rows ahead of me who had just pulled a book out of his bag. The book was called “Presentatie Tecniken” (or possibly something with a correct Dutch title!). This caught my attention.

I got chatting to him in my best tourist Dutch, starting by asking why he had that book. I told him about my job and he told me that he had to give a presentation and was looking for ideas on how to improve.

It turns out that last week there was a big conference in Barcelona for 15,000 Herbalife people. He was attending with his wife.

When I got off the plane I saw Herbalife posters everywhere. In Barcelona, they have revolving publicity posters and 1 in 3 was for Herbalife.


When training the next day, I mentioned “Why I see Citroen Xsara Picasso’s everywhere and why you should care” and asked if anyone had seen the posters at the airport. Everybody had come via the airport except one local person, but only 1 person had seen them! Why? Because the were not interested. Because HerbalLife meant nothing to them. Because the door was not open.


(…except one guy from Russia. A big football fan, he noticed a big poster with Messi on)

Want to know why I like this story? Read “Why I see Citroen Xsara Picasso’s everywhere and why you should care”.


Thanks for reading!



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