Communicating Effectively: Active Listening

“WAIT!” This word in my coaching circles acts as a trigger and acronym for ‘Why Am I Talking!’ It is a gentle reminder that we, as coaches, serve at a higher level when we are actively listening to our clients. Listening is one of the fundamental skills of a professional coach. Regardless of the coaching school you graduated from, listening in one form or another is taught. Deep listening, active listening, committed listening, listening at level 1, 2 or 3 and the list goes on.

Listening is a commitment to your client that you are present and giving them your full attention and support. Listening informs what powerful questions you may ask your client to support them in self-discovery of their own answers.

When we are listening, we are experiencing language, tonality, body language, feelings, and energy. In his book, “Coaching for Breakthrough Success,” Jack Canfield gives us a description of the difference between hearing and listening. He states that “hearing is a physical act and listening is an intellectual and emotional act. Hearing acknowledges sounds, whereas listening requires that we understand what was said. If we are really listening intently, we should feel a bit tired after our client has finished; effective listening is an active rather than a passive activity.”

Using the core competency identifiers of Communicating Effectively: Active Listening, I will offer some practices I use to continue to hone my skill of Active Listening.

• I clarify the client’s topic for the call and restate the client’s agenda. I spend the first 10% of the session clearing from our last session and clarifying the focus for the day’s session. Throughout the call I refocus the client on their topic/agenda if we go off course.

• I pay attention to the emotional field of my client, watching for subtle energy shifts during the coaching and using those shifts to inform my questions.

• Being tuned into the client’s agenda and focus for the session, I pay particular attention to the use of language and question around the meaning to the client. This practice in particular has been the catalyst to shifts for my clients.

• As a practice, I am always listening for unidentified values, beliefs and perspectives. I will help the client to identify the value, belief and/or perspective to add to their clarity of choice.

• I train my coaching clients in self-coaching skills so they are also exploring their own language, discovering or uncovering values, beliefs and perspectives.

Most importantly, practice the skill of listening with yourself! Everything I outlined above, I practice on myself. Practice this Mantra when you are with your clients and you find yourself doing more than 20% of the talking: “WAIT (why am I talking) and LET (listen, empathize and trust) your client talk!

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