As a coach I have to be able to listen – this may sound all very obvious, right? But there’s listening and then there’s ACTIVE listening. This is a skill that is not only fundamental for any coach, but it is also an essential skill for any meaningful interaction be it in our lives at work, with our friends or at home.
According to the International Coaching Federation’s core competencies, active listening is:
“The ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying,
to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires
and to support client self expression.”
As a member of the ICF, this skill is not only a core competency (the fundamental skills of life coaching) but is practically an article of faith emphasized in all our training and our CPD going forward.
IMPORTANT BENEFITS OF ACTIVE LISTENING
I become fully present and ‘in the moment’ with whoever I’m in discussion with – to the exclusion of all else. This is irrespective of whether we are having a discussion in a consultation room, or in a bustling hotel foyer
Get ALL the information
Active Listening distinguishes and ‘reads’ on just the words, but also the emotions, the tone of voice and the body language. All of these inform the flow of information and the quality of our work together
The agenda is yours!
It ensures the agenda is being set by you – by adhering to what I am hearing, seeing and sensing you are not going to be fit into any pre-prepared behavioural models. What you say will dictate and direct what happens next and where our journey takes us.
Follow what’s being said
It prevents the mind from running ahead of what is actually being said. If we do that, then we’re not listening properly and focusing on the present discussion. Instead we are over thinking and analysing to the detriment of the discussion.
Clarity for both of us
‘AL’ develops understanding and gets to the heart of the main issues in a way that produces remarkable trust and clarity in areas which may have been obscured in the past.
What people are REALLY thinking
This may not come immediately. Openess and candour can give vital and valuable information – what people have to say is the clay with which we have to work.
It is as important to understand a person’s strengths and potential for greatness as well as observing their challenges and vulnerabilities – the whole picture has to inform the discussion and, of course, the conclusions.
THE ROLE OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness practice, both formal and informal, makes all of the above that much more natural and easily available. The ability to maintain a high state of awareness in the moment, and without judgement, helps to take the skill of Active Listening to another level – but that’s a whole new topic….
I maintain that people already have everything they need to make positive, lasting change for the better in their lives. If proper attention and awareness is paid to what is being said – this will provide us both with all the raw material we need on which to build a rewarding and successful coaching relationship.
Offering patience as a possible option in fashioning new life strategies can meet with short shrift – and that’s putting it mildly. Patience is often regarded as ‘off the pace’: a waste of time when we should be out there ‘making things happen’. Patience is seen by many as too ‘wait and see’, or being passive, docile and even weak.
REVOLUTION OR EVOLUTION?
Most of us know of individuals who on deciding to make a new life change just do so: quitting smoking, training for their first marathon, losing 40lbs… they seem capable of a 180 degree with unshakable determination. We can respect and applaud such discipline & force of will but revolution is not for everyone. AND we certainly must not make comparisons and use those as a stick with which to beat ourselves. For many people evolution is a better fit: a more measured planned approach can get us to where we want to be.
It’s all bout forward momentum. Have you ever put a toddler down and turned away, only for a matter of seconds, and then turned back only to have to begin trying to track them down? Well, there’s nothing wrong with baby steps! So the sort of patience I refer to has nothing to do with ‘wait and see’ but is all about planned persistence at your pace. It does not signify lack of proactivity – quite the contrary, it’s all about devising an action plan combined with perpetual and most important of all – relentless forward momentum:
- you do not lose sight of the target
- you will not be knocked off course
- and you’re not stopping for….anything!
MEETING THE CHALLENGE ON YOUR TERMS
By setting your own pace, you can manage your own evolution by taking measured and positive steps every single day, for example:
- going for a walk
- not tackling a pile of mail but one piece at a time
- making a point of smiling at shop assistants and bank workers
- avoiding emotional vocabulary
- periodic ‘turn ‘em off time’ – TV, tablets, smart phones etc (tough one!)
To achieve goals it’s not a prerequisite to take giant leaps, or to turn lives upside down (however, if that’s the pace you want to set that’s fine). Change can be gradual: it evolves, and as such is grows into a natural fit and this time it will take!
The practice of thinking in new ways and doing new things often enough can alter lives a piece at a time. Quick fixes and short term enthusiasm so often leads to short lived benefits, disappointment & regression. Evolution can be the key to real change in thinking and in behaviour and replicates how we took on bad habits – we’ve just reverse the flow. So positive changes can ‘take’ and become our new good habits. What took decades to condition our lives cannot necessarily be turned around in weeks, but real beginning can be made – in bite size pieces….buon appetito!
Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement.