To be a great coach some people might say it means having great questions up your sleeve. In reality, a great coaching experience starts with great listening. Listening to what you are thinking and feeling, to what they are saying and might be thinking and feeling, and listening to what’s happening around and between you both.
Too often we listen to respond: what will I say next? What does what they are saying mean for me? You are usually only half-listening.
Sometimes we are able to actively listen and pay attention to what they are trying to say, as well as trying to figure out how they might be feeling. This experience is really about the other person and there are no distractions.
When we start listening between the lines, we are not only fully absorbed in what they are saying to us, we are also paying attention to other factors such as tone, pace, body language and your own physical and emotional reactions to what you hear. You can almost experience their thinking process out loud.
This is where real connections can be made, creating more awareness for you both. This creates deeper understanding and a natural energy that moves things forward.
Today, the invitation is to work with a willing volunteer to practice this.
Start by taking turns to talk for two minutes each about your favourite moment this year – or perhaps a film or book you’ve recently enjoyed. While you’re listening, think about how you’ll respond and notice any other thoughts that intrude.
Repeat this, but this time during your two minutes of listening, your role is to be completely absorbed by what they say. Be fascinated. Notice anything you want to hear more about.
Do this once more, and this time focus on their energy. What does this seem to feel like for them? Are they excited? How do you know? What clues do you set in their body language or hear in their voice? What about the words or metaphors they use?
Afterwards, reflect in your journal about how you felt during these experiments – what different types of information did you glean during each practice, and how did you feel physically or emotionally when engaging in those different levels of listening?
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