Listening is a key coaching skill. It’s a basic element in how coaching works. It’s also a skill that managers, parents, teachers, counselors, even police detectives use. But what are they listening for?
I am convinced that my parents always listened for evidence that they were right. My teachers listened for what I didn’t understand, so they could explain some concept or fact. And while I’ve never met a police detective, popular entertainment suggests that they listen for evidence of guilt.
So how is listening different when a coach does it?
Bernard Ferrari, author of Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All comments that “Good listeners seek to understand—and challenge—the assumptions that lie below the surface of every conversation.”
A great coach does this in service to his or her client. We listen to learn more about what makes the client tick. We listen for subtext. We listen for what excites our client, or scares them, or bores them. We listen for what is spoken and what is unspoken. We listen for themes and trends. We listen for values and beliefs.
We listen so that we may help our clients achieve their goals and their dreams.
Here are five ways to listen more intently.
- Quiet your mind.
- Let go of your solutions, great ideas and thoughts, and trust your client to come up with these.
- Listen to more than the spoken word – tone, pitch, and speed are just as important (and maybe MORE important) than words.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Stop multitasking.