When we talk about coaching, it is quite obvious that it is important to practice effective listening. What does it mean to be a good listener though? Hearing is one thing, but listening is something else. So let’s quickly look at a definition for each.
The act of perceiving a sound by ear. Hearing happens passively. You don’t have to think about hearing.
Truly trying to understand another person’s point of view. Listening requires an active, conscious choice and mental effort. Listening requires focused attention.
What is Effective listening?
Effective listening skills are a prerequisite of a good coach and the coach should spend far more time listening than speaking. During everyday conversation it is very easy to become distracted with our own thoughts and opinions. However as an accredited coach you know that the session belongs to the client and therefore you should put your own agenda, opinions and judgments aside.
As a coach, when you listen effectively you are:
• Focused on the client and are not distracted by your own opinions, judgments or feelings.
• You demonstrate active listening with active listening techniques. (We will discuss these in the next post.)
• You are listening to truly understand your client. Not just to the words being said but also for their feelings, values, emotions and what is not being said verbally.
• Listening requires giving space to your client to talk freely and explore, without fear of judgment or interruption.
• Become aware of your clients wants and needs and you can intuitively know what questions to ask your client.
Three levels of listening.
• Internal listening.
Here the listener focuses on their own thoughts rather than that of the speaker. The listener interprets what they hear in terms of what it means to them. This is often what people employ in normal daily conversation where the listener gathers information to help form opinions and make decisions.
As a good coach, you will generally not be listening at this level. The coaching session isn’t about you, but rather the client and their needs. There are times when it may be appropriate; example, when establishing a convenient time for the next coaching session. In this instance you need to take into account your own availability and make a judgement in order to agree a mutually convenient time.
• Listening to understand.
As the coach you are focusing on the client and what they are saying. You are not distracted by your own thoughts and feelings. As a good coach you will be using this level of listening, where the purpose of gathering information is solely for the benefit of your client. You can get a real understanding of the client and what is “going on” for them.
• Global listening.
The coach focuses on the client and is picking up more than what is being said. Listening to everything available, using intuition, picking up emotion and sensing signals from your client’s body language. You are also listening for what the client is not saying, allowing you to be extremely responsive to the needs of your client. NLP teaches us a number of really useful techniques to be a great global listener.
So what type of listener are you?
Do you focus more on the client or more on your own internal thoughts and feelings?
In the next post we will look at some active listening techniques that you, as the coach, can use.
If you want to find out more about the coaching courses offered by Coaching with NLP, simply contact us today and we will be more than happy to help. We have also created a free introduction to coaching course for you.
Image by Gavin Whitner