The Celtic Engineer is a weekly newsletter produced by Celtic Engineering Solutions.  We hope you enjoy it.  If you have any suggestions for topics, would like to give feedback or want your email added to the distribution list please send an email to

Engineering Tools

What do you suppose is the most important tool an engineer can possess?  A DVM? An Oscilloscope? A well-  equipped office, with a comfortable chair?  Maybe it is her computer. A good manager?  While all of these things are important to the effectiveness of an engineer, I think the most important tool an engineer can possess is the ability to listen.  And listening takes more than a pair of ears.

The 5 steps to effective listening

You might think listening is easy since we are equipped to do it and some people even do it every day.  If we really listened, I think there would be far less miscommunication, which leads me to believe it is less common and more difficult than it appears.

Step 1: Pay attention to the speaker

We should look at the speaker and give them our undivided attention. Our body language often communicates more than our words. Turn and face the person. Make eye contact. If you are seated, reclining shows inattention.  Lean slightly forward in your chair.  Clear your mind of distracting thoughts.  Yes, I know, lunch is always a priority, but try to focus.  Don’t criticize or prepare to contradict, correct or challenge. Be a sponge and take in what they are saying.

Step 2: Act like you’re paying attention

You don’t want to act like a mannequin.  Smile and nod appropriately.  You will want to add small verbal queues like saying yes and ok, occasionally.  Depending on the type of conversation, you probably don’t want to provide much interaction at this point.  If the person is providing you with lots of information, you want to show interest, but don’t try and interject much.

Step 3: Respond to clarify

We are not perfect listeners. We usually hear or absorb what is most familiar.  That means we usually miss a lot of important stuff or misinterpret what we do hear.  In order to clarify what they are saying you will want to respond by trying to say back to them what they just said to you in your own words to verify that you understood.  You are summarizing what they said.

Step 4: Don’t be judgmental

If someone is conveying a short amount of information you should wait until they are done.  If they are providing you a great deal of information you will respond after each point.  Allow them to finish their point without interruption.  You don’t want to provide a counter argument, a different view or provide other points they might have missed. Your job is to understand what they are saying.

Step 5: Provide a good response

Provide good feedback that is open, honest and respectful.  You can agree or disagree, but always aim to be productive.  As engineers we are trying to solve a problem, make sure your response to their comments moves them, and you, closer to a positive and productive action.  Treat the person you are talking with the way you think they would want you to treat them.

Listening, hearing, is the first step. It proceeds doing and is the key to communicating with others.  I wish I could say I have mastered this talent. The truth is I have recognized the value in listening.  Listening, especially to our customers (internal and external to our companies), will make us better engineers.

Final thoughts

At Celtic Engineering Solutions we always listen to our customers.  If you have an engineering need, a project that needs to get done, or additional help in completing a project, give us a call, write us an email.  Let us listen to your needs.  We want to help you succeed.

This newsletter is sponsored by Celtic Engineering Solutions LLC, a design engineering firm based out of West Jordan and Murray, Utah, which can be found on the web at:  We are also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  If we can ever help you with your engineering needs please contact us.  You can find the newsletter on the company blog, LinkedIn or in your inbox by subscribing.  Send your emails to The Celtic Engineer at:, with the subject line SUBSCRIBE. 

Do you know someone who would enjoy the newsletter?  Forward them a copy or let them know where to find it.