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jen-pic-2My pastor, Peter Hubbard, is a great teacher and story teller. Back in 2008, we were working our way through the New Testament book of Ephesians as a church and we were learning about corrupt and uncorrupt speech. This is when I first heard about funneling.

Funneling is something most all of us have mastered without really even trying. It is the art of taking any topic, no matter what it is, and making it about yourself.

For example,

Your Colleague: We had some killer green beans for Christmas.

You: I once had a restaurant owner for a client. His green beans were really good too. With my guidance, he was able to open 4 new locations his second year.

Example #2,

Your neighbor: We had a great vacation. Pretty simple. We just drove a couple of hours, did some camping and boating. The kids had fun.

You: Oh man, you’ve gotta camp with us some time. We know this great location with the best fishing. We just got some new skiis for the boat too.

I will never need to funnel a conversation toward my artistic talents. Ever.

I will never need to funnel a conversation toward my artistic talents. Ever.


It’s not wrong to tell your colleague about your business experience or to tell your neighbor about a great vacation spot. But if you want to build a relationship with another person, you need to start noticing your funneling. It can be a real turn off.

The problems with funneling are hopefully obvious. It demonstrates a lack of concern or care for the other person. Those of you that want to be coaches and consultants are going to have to be good listeners. When you talk, it should be for the edification of your customer. You opening your mouth should be to ask clarifying or purposeful questions or to share relevant information intended to bring value to the other person.

Funneling does the opposite. When you funnel, you are bringing attention to yourself and making the conversation about you or your experience.

Funnelers show a lack of humility. It tells the other person you don’t have anything to learn from them so you can change the topic to something more interesting: yourself. Jason and I noticed the funneling skills of one person recently. Not too much later, she actually told us she could teach everything we do in her sleep. That may be true, but it was a relationship killer and the lack of humility was certainly confirmed. (Don’t try to figure out who it was. This person has never been a Thriveal member, I promise!)

Funneling also prevents you from gaining new knowledge. Like it or not, you really do not know everything. I certainly don’t. But if you will resist the temptation to shift the focus onto yourself, maybe you can add to your knowledge. It’s not easy. May I suggest that just asking even one question before you give into the funneling temptation would be a big improvement? Let’s take one of the above examples and replace the funneling with a question to show interest in the other person.

Your Colleague: We had some killer green beans for Christmas.

You: Yeah? Who made them? Were you able to see your parents for the holidays this year?

Colleague: Yes! We had a great time. How about you?

You: It was great. Hey, did you know I once had a restaurant owner for a client. His green beans were really good too.

Even delaying your funneling by one or two sentences can show interest and concern for the other person.

I would love to know other ways we can show care for others with our listening skills. Tell me in the comments. And don’t worry, I won’t think you are funneling!

Jennifer earned her degree in Early Childhood Education from Winthrop University. She has taught in public school and, more recently, her own children at the Blumer Christian Academy for Girls. Jennifer serves the Thriveal members as the Community Manager. She also produces two podcasts, The Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and serves as the Mother Hen/Firm Administrator/Chief Jason-Herder for Blumer & Associates CPAs. She loves college football, especially the South Carolina Gamecocks. Jennifer and her husband, Jason Blumer, live in Greenville, SC with their three beautiful daughters and their grumpy miniature daschund, Rose.


  • On 01-09-2013 at 2:20 pm, Adam Shay, CPA said:

    Great blog post and 100% relevant to business development. Show genuine interest and good listening skills and life can be pretty smooth sailing.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 01-09-2013 at 2:25 pm, Jennifer said:

      Thanks Adam. It just comes so naturally to talk about ourselves. But when I consider the people I really enjoy being with the most, they are usually interested in me and not monopolizing the conversation. Now I need to be careful that I am listening just as well to them!

  • On 01-09-2013 at 4:32 pm, Stacey Byrne said:

    Jennifer, this is SUPER COOL! I Just two days ago I caught myself doing this with a new client, to a small degree. While I did take time to ask her questions about herself, her family and her business, there were definitely sentences that came from my lips that could have been worded better, or left out of the conversation entirely. I shut myself down pretty quickly, but I appreciate you bringing awareness to this so I can make a conscience effort to bite my tongue when necessary.

  • Jennifer Blumer

    On 01-09-2013 at 4:39 pm, Jennifer said:

    Thanks so much Stacey! I am glad the post was helpful for you.

  • Melinda Guillemette

    On 01-09-2013 at 5:11 pm, Melinda Guillemette said:

    Oh, Jennifer, what a great post. You are SOOOO on the money with funneling as a relationship-killer. The more experienced you are in life and business, the more obvious — and irritating — funneling is.

    A blogger wrote somewhere recently the description of listening as “an intimate act.” So true. And woefully inadequate in our society.

    You asked how to show care for others by listening. Do you think the following is useful? Assuming you know someone fairly well and already have a relationship, look the person right in the eye, smile, and say “So. Tell me everything that’s going on with you.” Then listen intently and begin to ask questions as you suggested.

    I’ve tried this with close customers, newer customers and friends, and it seems to work. Probably not great conversation starter for strangers, but it might be worth a try with other folks. What do you think?

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 01-09-2013 at 5:17 pm, Jennifer said:

      I love it Melinda! You are great at making people feel important You are whatever the opposite of a funneler is. People do want to talk about themselves. Giving them the chance to do it is a good idea.

      Thanks for sharing the post on Facebook, by the way.

  • On 01-09-2013 at 5:51 pm, Kevin McCoy said:

    I love the post Jennifer – so important in every area of life. These soft skills are so easy, but so difficult, hopefully that makes sense.

    I find myself doing this too, because conversation is not my strong suit – with new folks at least. So if I hear some common interest or tidbit I latch onto it. I think asking another follow up question like you suggested is a great idea. There is usually another “W” (Why, What, Who, When, Where) you could follow up with and still have the conversation flow naturally.

  • On 01-09-2013 at 6:01 pm, Bernie said:

    This is my wife’s major pet peeve. She has relationships with too many funnelers. Great article.

  • On 01-09-2013 at 6:23 pm, Jonathan Godwin said:

    Man, I just did this on the phone with a client! I gotta do a better job of watching that. This was a great topic, Jennifer. With tax season around the corner and my face to face interaction with clients increasing, I will make a conscious effort to avoid funneling when speaking to them.

  • Jennifer Blumer

    On 01-09-2013 at 6:28 pm, Jennifer said:

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. I can only write about it because I am so good at it! 😉

    By the way, those of you noticing how you need to change your habits aren;t the really bad funnelers. They won’t think it’s them. Ha!

  • On 01-09-2013 at 8:17 pm, Michael Wall said:

    I am so guilty of this…great article Jen.

  • On 01-10-2013 at 12:06 am, Barrett said:

    You’re so vain, you probably think this blog reference is about you…

  • On 01-11-2013 at 10:08 pm, Magen Smith, CPA said:

    OOOooo Good job Jennifer! How did you learn so much about this topic? What are you guys doing to prevent this? Do you have any suggestions?

    ^^ That is my attempt at NOT funneling…. although I just made it about me, didn’t I?

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 01-11-2013 at 10:14 pm, Jennifer said:

      You weren’t funneling! You were asking questions about the topic.

      And I stink at it. Caught myself doing it on Yammer today. We’re all going to talk about ourselves some. And that is fine! It’s a problem when it’s a habit to ignore the other person’s interests or concerns or the general flow of the conversation. It’s a problem when we try to one up one another for the better example or story. Every time.


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