Coach Skill 2 - Active Listening

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  • Active Listening

    Learning how to actively listen is one of the first essential skills a coach needs.

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Defining Listening

Have you ever wondered why everybody says they are a good listener? Is it because we place little value on this skill or is it because people see it as such a natural part of being human? Yet how many people could you say are really good listeners? You may know one or two people but that is about all. However we all see this as a skill we need to have but how much time do we spend thinking about the depth of this skill?

A powerful listener is someone who is able to focus on what another person is saying without getting distracted. A powerful listener has intense focus. A powerful listener is present in the moment of the conversation. Perhaps our reason for overlooking this skill is that it sounds so easy to achieve but in practice it is very difficult. It requires putting our own needs aside to listen to another. To achieve this requires ensuring that you are feeling great about yourself and fully aware of your needs at that moment in time. It is far better to say that you are not able to listen to someone when you can’t than to pretend to be listening. This type of deception is detected immediately and any attempt at creating a trusting relationship may fail.

A person speaking needs to feel heard and also understood. They need to have a response when one is asked for. As humans the very nature of being understood and heard is connected to our sense of self worth. When you are speaking, you have something of value to say and you want to say it to contribute and to be heard. If you are not listened to or even ignored, this hits at the heart of who you are and your self esteem. Imagine if you walked around all day and no one answered you when you spoke to them. Perhaps you would start to feel as though you were invisible. Having a voice helps us to identify with our family, friends and community. It helps us to understand ourselves. Some people use conversation to gain clarity on what they are thinking. They talk to people to work through thoughts and to refine them.

Why is it that we would never say we are a good talker, but we would say we are a good listener? Is being a good listener connected with the belief that this makes you a better person? Being a good listener may be connected to the notion of generosity – giving time to someone. Is this what makes us a good person? So on one hand we see being a good listener as being connected to being a good person but on the other hand we may not spend a great deal of time perfecting this skill.

A little recognized value of listening and inquiring relates to the realization that in human relationships, it is frequently not what the facts are, but what people think the facts are, which is truly important. There is benefit in learning what someone else’s concept of the reality of the situation is.

Bryan Bell

Reflection Exercise

Sit in a quiet space and in your head count to 50. The aim of this is to see if you can actually get to 50 without your thoughts drifting off. If you can count to 50 and be focused then you are able to be present for at least one minute. Now this may seem like an incredibly short amount of time but in a conversation this is quite a long period. You can practice this skill over time to see if you can increase the number of seconds you can stay focused for.

One of the important areas to consider about being a powerful listener is to determine if you value this skill or not. Really ask yourself if it is important enough to spend many hours learning how to be a powerful listener. Also ask yourself if you value what other people have to say – do you see that other people have something to offer to your life? Are you able to listen to someone if you cannot immediately see if what they are saying is of value to you?

If you truly value powerful listening then you will enter this skill into your conscious thought and you will start to become aware of how you listen to people throughout your day. You will start to observe yourself in conversations. Bringing this level of awareness about powerful listening into your day will be the first step to increasing your skills in this incredibly important area.

  1. How would you describe yourself as a listener?
  2. Write down what you value about being a powerful listener.
  3. Design a plan on how you can increase your skills in being a powerful listener.
  4. How do you feel when you are listened to?