Harpooning vs Boomeranging

Hi again and welcome to another episode of the Art of Business English. This week we are focusing on improving your listening communication skills. Loic and myself will be discussing the concept of Boomeranging vs. Harpooning, which is something I picked up while reading a very good book entitled “Dad’s and their daughters”.

Let’s dive into the episode and take a look. 

Watch the episode here


In communication, boomeranging means bringing the conversation back to yourself rather than really listening. Most people boomerang all the time and are not really aware of how this can damage effective communication. People often think that they are showing that they understand by giving the person they are talking to an example of something similar which happened to them.

Here is an example of boomeranging.

“I have been struggling a bit at work lately with some extra work that has been given to me”.

Response: “Good I know what you mean, I have been completely snowed under with a project I am working on.”

Here we think we are being compassionate as we are telling the person we understand what we “think” they are going through, but in fact this type of response shuts down the communication.

As a manager or leader, we can often fall into this trap as well. Here’s another example. A new employee comes to you with a problem and your response is:

“Well I went through the same issues when I first started here, you’ll get used to it.” 


Harpooning is the opposite, it is when you stay with someone as they express their feelings so that you continue to find out what things are like from their viewpoint, like a harpoon stuck in a whale. This, instead of bringing the conversation back on yourself.

This is a great technique to learn to improve your social skills in English or whatever language, instead of talking about yourself all the time you genuinely start showing interest in others and seek to understand their point of view.

It’s also important to remember that the majority of the population are not great listeners and that becoming one yourself will make you a much more effective leader, manager, mother, father, friend, husband or wife.

How do you harpoon?

Here are some examples of how you can harpoon in a conversation:

H: Great, What did you enjoy most about the place?
B: I went there too. Let me tell you about…

H: What did you find best about the school?
B: Our kids are at another school. It…

H: What do you enjoy most about your job?
B: I tried that, but now I work…

H: That’s tough. How are you coping with it?
B: I feel like that too. I hate it when… 

Final thoughts

Listening and listening effectively are one of the most essential business English skills that you can acquire. Being a better listener will result in you being a better leader, colleague and help you get to the root of many problems within your organisation.

My final advice is to start practicing harpooning and also to become aware of when you boomerang. This can be done in your native language and then you can employ some of the expressions here to be a better listener.

Stay with us for next week’s episode where we are going to discuss emphatic listening skills.

Please leave us your comments below or connect with us on social media. We are more than happy to help you with any questions you may have.

Till next week…

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

Andrew Ambrosius

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