Level II: SOAr

In Level II we teach you to have conversations that soar. To achieve liftoff and fly to Collaborative Change, there are four conversational techniques you will use to achieve EQTunement. These four techniques communicate that you see, hear, understand and care.

Summary is the Goal

The objective of the game is to reach a summary. Summaries are what make the conversation really soar. The summary can only be possible after being set up with open questions, appreciations and reflections. We will revisit the summary after these three.

Important: Even though these techniques are presented in sequence, they should be used freely, in any order, as needed during a conversation. Typically, a conversation will use more open questions and appreciations, with fewer reflections and summaries. The order in which each technique is used depends upon the flow of the conversation. Use your EQTunement to sense the direction. This takes skill but eventually, it will flow naturally and organically. As with all skills, practice makes perfect!

Open Questions

Open questions allow the other person to establish direction, as opposed to closed questions, which can only be answered with a yes or a no. Certain closed questions can trigger the Corrective Complex. Any closed question can be reworded to be open. For example:

  • Closed: Do you need help with your marketing needs?
  • Open: What would you say your most pressing marketing needs are right now?

The nature of your open question should be adapted to the context of the conversation. Open questions that do not relate to context can be treated as small talk (Ex: "How was your weekend?"), but eventually should guide the conversation towards Collaborative Change.

Other versions of open questions involve presenting possible Collaborative Change. These questions probe for momentum and resistance. For example:

  • "What would happen if you decided to quit right now?"
  • "What's stopping you from making this decision?"
  • "How would you go about making that a reality?"

Open questions can also be used when a conversation that gets stuck--to clarify and get unstuck in a collaborative way.


Appreciations are affirming statements, gestures or expressions that encourage the conversation. Appreciations always start with proper eye contact and body language. In its most basic form, an appreciation can be a nod, smile or as simple as, "I see," or, "Go on." The most effective appreciations demonstrate empathy and attunement personalized to the other person. Here are some examples:

  • "I appreciate that because..."
  • "Wow. And what else?"
  • "That makes sense. I would feel the same."
  • "That's happened to me before."
  • "Good for you. That was a big step."
  • "I absolutely relate. I'd like to hear more."

Keep appreciations as brief as possible or else you will face the temptation to start talking about yourself.

Acknowledge the other person during an appreciation. You can combine this with the open question, "What would you like to be acknowledged for?" Then you can follow up with an appreciation around what they want to be acknowledged for.


Reflections are the secret weapon when it comes to EQTunement. They demonstrate that you are actively listening. They are statements that reflect what you see and hear, but also add your understanding and care.

A reflection extends the conversation and probes for understanding at the same time. In other words, they are mini-summaries that, without actually repeating what the other is saying, demonstrate you recognize their feelings and are attuning to them. Reflections create joy. For example:

  • Them: "It's so frustrating. I don't know if I should just spend the money now or wait until I have saved enough. I just want my family to be happy."
  • You: "Balancing your financial responsibilities with family is important to you."

When you extend and probe, the other person has an opportunity to validate or invalidate your reflection. Whether you are accurate or not isn't the point--the point is that you have demonstrated EQTunement. If done properly, your conversation partner will be more than happy to elaborate and clarify. Collaboration towards change then continues.

We use a lower case "r" in the SOAr acronym because reflection should be understated. Avoid embellishment or exaggeration--this can trigger the Corrective Complex. For example:

  • Them: "I get so upset every time we talk about this. She always brings up my mistakes without recognizing my contributions."
  • You (capital "R"): "She doesn't respect or appreciate you at all!"
  • You (understated "r"): "Sometimes it helps to feel a little respect and appreciation."

See the difference? When your reflection is capitalized, there is a chance your conversation partner will draw back into the Corrective Complex because you may be too far from their position.

One technique that is very helpful for using reflections, in SOAr, is controlling the tone, or more specifically, the intonation of your voice.

When the tone of your voice rises at the end of a statement, it ends up sounding like a question. For example, try saying the following:

  • "Financial health is important to you?" (upward)
  • "Financial health is important to you." (downward)
  • "You've always wanted to visit there?" (upward)
  • "You've always wanted to visit there." (downward)
  • "True friendship is what you've been seeking?" (upward)
  • "True friendship is what you've been seeking." (downward)

Notice the difference? The first sentence endswith upward intonation and comes across as a question. This tone can trigger a Corrective Complex. End the sentence in a downward tone to keep it a statement, which is what reflections are meant to be. In many ways, turning a reflection into a question is equivalent to asking, "Why?" which is a no-no for EQTunement.

Reflections can be the trickiest technique to learn, but once you do, they become very natural.


At the right time, offer a summary and then:

  1. ASK if the summary was correct.
  2. OFFER collaborative change, getting permission first.
  3. ASK how they feel after.

Here is an example:

  • You: "Just to summarize, I see that this has really taken a toll on you. I hear your desire to make change happen, but I also understand that it's not easy, especially when everybody is telling you the exact opposite of what you expected to hear.
  • You (Ask): Did I get that right?"
  • Them: "Yes, that's pretty bang on."
  • You (Ask to Offer): "Great. Thank you for your courage. I really do care what happens to you. So can I make a suggestion?"
  • Them: "Yes, go ahead."
  • You (Offer): "Well it seems like you have a choice between what others want you to do and what your values tell you to do. I believe you need to be true to yourself or else you'll regret it later. So this all boils down to taking a risk and stepping out in faith for what you believe."
  • You (Ask): "How do you feel and what do you think about my suggestion?"
  • Them: "I feel great! I think I am ready!"
  • You: "Fantastic. So how about we create an action plan right now and you make that call before others cause you to second guess yourself again?"

Using the Ask, Offer, Ask technique is how you see if the door of Collaborative Change has opened, and by how much. Sometimes the door opens only a crack and you have to keep going. Other times the door swings wide open right away. It all depends upon the context and circumstances of the conversation.

What happens if the door of Collaborative Change is still closed after a summary? Go back to open questions. For example, "What am I missing in what you are telling me?"

Advanced Technique: Another form of a summary is a "meta-summary," where you step back and have a conversation about the conversation. This can be really helpful in establishing parameters on how collaborative change can be best achieved. For example:

  • You: "It's clear this is causing you certain anxiety. I can relate. I also hear you are pretty confused. And I hate seeing you go through this because I have always cared about your family. So can we step back for a moment and talk about how we can proceed?"
  • Them: "Sure."
  • You: "Great. Would you like me to just listen and help you clear your thoughts? Or, would you like me to give you my opinion and advice on what I would do?"

You will know when someone is ready for a summary when there is enough Collaborative Change talk. This requires careful listening and using EQ to recognize their emotions. Again, depending upon the context and circumstance, you may have to spend considerable time in EQTunement using open questions, appreciations and reflections before any summaries are possible. It is also not uncommon to require multiple summaries until Collaborative Change can occur.

When Joy Drops

At any point in time, you may see joy completely drop from the conversation. The reasons for this vary from a lack of EQTunement on your part or a disagreement with your summary. When joy drops, there is no more collaboration and you have entered into Corrective Complex. This is OK and you should not be deterred. Your task is then to return to a neutral EQTunement position. The best way to do that is with an open question. Some examples are:

  • "I completely accept your stance. Can you share the reason you disagree with me?"
  • "I'm sorry, this conversation feels awkward for me. Would you like to tell me what I missed in this story?"
  • "Is there something you would like to say but are worried I would be offended if you do?"
  • "How can I help make this go better? What would you do in my shoes?"

You may be in a situation where you are the expert and know exactly what the other should do for change. Just remember, the Corrective Complex will have a negative, and even opposite, effect on what you want to accomplish. If you ever find yourself caring more about your conversation partner's change than they do for themselves, it's time to step back and evaluate your approach. This takes humility and a recognition of when your own feelings of pride are hindering the process. In these cases, there is nothing wrong with continuing the conversation at a later time, or conceding and waiting for other opportunities. By rule of thumb, sometimes it is simply to be harmless and not helpful.

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