The other day I was texting with a friend. He spent time with someone we both knew and I asked how it had been. His response “It was interesting. On one level, I like what she says sometimes. And on the other hand, she doesn’t get out of coach mode very easily. So it can feel like you’re being advised when you didn’t ask to be.☺” *wince* I (painfully) knew what he meant having done it enough times myself.
The first time I recognized I wasn’t listening was in 2013. Some colleagues and I were discussing the subject of listening. Suddenly I realized how little to no space I allowed before automatically responding. It was in that humbling moment that listening became a curiosity to explore. In this coaching tip, I am sharing the ways I improved my listening over the years as an Insight Guide.
Consider your coaching when answering these questions. Do you think about the next question while your client answers? Are you ever caught up in relating to their story, possibly missing something underneath? Does thinking of solutions distract you from listening? How present are you?
I view listening as layers–mental, emotional and deep listening. The questions above are of our mental listening. Are you mentally clear or is your mind cluttered? How mentally available are you for your client? Here are tips I have used to keep my mind clear. I find it helpful to 1. pay attention to my thoughts and clear anything unnecessary 2. catch my impulse to interrupt and 3. pace my questions and responses.
The next layer of listening is from the heart. Are you sensitive to what the client wants or needs? Is it to process an issue out loud, out of their head? Are they seeking advice? Could the client only want to be heard by another human being? A present and open heart allows us to understand emotionally without involvement from the mind. It allows us to stay neutral and still relate without sharing our story. The client feels seen and understood when heard with an open heart.
With the mental and emotional layers active, deep listening is the third. What are your intentions when working with clients? How can you best serve them? Listen from within and align with those intentions when coaching. When I’m in deep listening my breathing slows down, and I sit weighted in my chair. From there, I focus all my senses on the client. With my mind free and heart present, awareness expands allowing a listening from the body. From an embodied space I can sense the client even more.
Silence is a large part of listening, especially deep listening. Silence is a developed skill. Being quiet gives space to reflect, for the client and the coach. It invites the client to dive deeper and offers room to think. Having a strong comfort level with silence is a valuable asset to a coach. Interruption is another skill that works with silence. Some useful indicators for interruption I use: When the client is spinning in their story; asking a clarifying question about what the client said; redirecting back to a question; reflecting back I heard; and time constraints.
Listening has many facets and I hope these tips are helpful when considering your own coaching. I found that refining the depth of my listening helped my professional work and personal relationships. The more aware I am of how I listen, the better I can serve my clients and communicate with others in general.
About the Author
Laura Johnson is an Insight Guide and creator of the Clarity Insight™ Process, a self-empowerment tool facilitated by coaches and therapists with clients. Find out more at www.arisinginsights.com