Are You a Good Listener?

By admin / April 4, 2011
By: Louise Yates
Category: Coaching

As a coach you need to really understand your clients, know who they are, their strengths, what is important to them, what they are passionate about and what really makes them tick. Not only this, your clients also need to know that you know all these things. Only then will you have that vital ingredient ‘rapport’ which will encourage your clients to open up and allow you to coach them to their full potential.

So what are some of the common mistakes we make when we think we are listening?

Listening to the client’s ‘story’
As a coach we may find ourselves wanting to allow our clients the space to talk…and talk…and talk. However you do not need to concern yourself with the irrelevant details of the client’s tale…afterall this could take days and the client will move no further forward! Instead you are listening for what is going on behind the words. What are you learning about them…what are their strengths, their feelings, emotions and what is really important to them?

Being able to listen for all of these and reflecting these back will raise your own client’s awareness about who they are, they will know you have tuned into them and really understand them In contrast relaying back snippets of their story will rarely develop their insight further.

Sharing our own experiences
Another mistake we can easily fall into is trying to show we understand by sharing our own similar experiences…’Oh yes, I understand I’ve been there’ or ‘That happened to me once.’ But as coach we have to keep ourselves out of the conversation – afterall your situation will never be the same as theirs…you are a different person, with different values and this is about the client who has paid to talk about their agenda.

When we bring our own experiences into a coaching session we are listening at what we call Level 1 and instead we need to be listening at Level 2 and Level 3. Let me explain. At both these levels we are listening purely to the client, listening for facts and information and relate what they say to what this means to the client. For example if a client says ‘I really want to develop my confidence with public speaking’ then your next question may be ‘This sounds really important to you…what would that mean to you?’ This would help the client to think more deeply about what is driving them . If you were listening at Level 1 you might say ‘Yes I know what you mean, I find it really useful to be able to stand up in public.’ All of a sudden the focus has moved away from the client and onto you and the client has moved no further forward with their thinking.

Listening at Level 3 takes it a stage further…you are also be picking up feelings and emotions and using your intuition hearing what is not being said. Listening to pauses and tone of voice and observing body language all give us clues as to what is going on for the client, what is really important to them, what might ne holding them back.

Disagreeing to be kind
So a client says to you, full of emotion ‘I am so overweight.’ You immediately want to provide them with reassurance, afterall you are here to make them feel good…or are you? In this instance you are showing that you are not really listening to them. By countering their statement you are immediately saying ‘I do not understand you’ Instead get curious ‘you feel overweight…tell me more’. This may take us outside our comfort zone but helps the client perhaps for the first time to feel that someone has heard how they are feeling.

So how do you become an effective listener?
The first step is to be curious…if you are not genuinely interested in your client it is unlikely you will listen well. And again this isn’t curiosity about their ‘story’…you are not coaching to get the latest gossip, juicy as it may be. It is about being curious about who they are as a person, what is important to hem and what makes them that wonderful person they are.

Secondly self management is key …being prepared to stop talking and start listening and at the same time, keeping your own thoughts, judgements, emotions and discomforts out…remember the agenda belongs to the client.

And finally just listening to all of these things isn’t enough. You need to reflect back to your client, not only what you are hearing but also what you are seeing and sensing.

Louise Yates has written about the three levels of listening and active listening techniques. She also offers her services for business coaching uk.

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