How Do You Listen?

by Nan Einarson

Many people define listening as sitting quietly, while another person talks. Most are surprised to learn that listening is actually a 2-way, circular process. Effective Life Coaches understand the listening process, have mastered the techniques well, and employ effective listening skills in all of their communications.

Each of us has a personal filter through which verbal information flows. Our filters are based on our unique life experiences, education, culture, religion/spirituality, language, work/career, etc.

A speaker’s words are delivered through his/her personal filter. The listener hears those words through his/her own filter (created from their own life experiences, education, culture, etc.) In a coaching session, the Client is the speaker and the Coach is the listener.

The Client’s Words

When a client speaks, of course the coach will sit quietly and listen until the client finishes. That’s not where listening ends. That’s where the listening process begins, and the coach then has an active role to play.

After hearing and processing the client’s words, the coach formulates an interpretation of what the speaker said. It is then critical that the coach clarifies that what he/she heard was what the client intended, by voicing that interpretation in his/her own words.

In response, the client either acknowledges the accuracy of the interpretation, or re-frames/re-states the information and the process begins again, until the client and coach achieve a common understanding. Once there, the co-creative coaching relationship is fully engaged.

Whenever a coach fails to clarify his/her interpretation of the client’s words, the process breaks down. The resulting conversation will be based on assumptions, not reality, and the client has not been fully heard and understood.

Active listening is a skill and like any other skill, improves with practice. So, what’s the secret to being a Masterful Coach? Practice listening actively until it becomes habit.

Nan Einarson is a Mentor Coach and Trainer for the Certified Coach Program.