ACTIVE LISTENING “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” (Ralph Nichols)
What is Active Listening • One of eleven of the core ICF competencies and is at the center of great coaching. • ICF Definition: 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 • It’s a large part of Coaching Presence • Every one has a story to tell, everyone has a voice crying to be heard. • Many people have not truly shared their story with another soul Most conversations take place at a surface level, not deep enough to make a real discovery of underlying issues
ICF Active Listening Competencies • Attends to the client and the client’s agenda, and not to the coach’s agenda for the client • Hears the client’s concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is and is not possible • Distinguishes between the words, the tone of voice, and the body language • Summarizes, paraphrases, reiterates, mirrors back what client has said to ensure clarity and understanding
ICF Active Listening Competencies • Encourages, accepts, explores and reinforces the client’s expression of feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, suggestions, etc. • Integrates and builds on client’s ideas and suggestions • “ Bottom – lines“ or understands the essence of the client’s communication and helps the client get there rather than engaging in long descriptive stories. • Allows the client to vent or “clear” the situation without judgement or attachment in order to move on to next steps
Active Listening • Two conditions have to be present • Calmness • A calm mind will free you from anxiety and the need to try to be helpful. When your mind is calm and at rest, all thoughts are silenced to help you focus on the listening. • Curiosity • A healthy level of curiosity will heighten you interest in the client. You will ask the right questions to keep the conversation tight as you learn more • Combining calmness and curiosity, you will achieve the right level of active listening and come up with the right powerful questions
7 Key Active Listening Skills • Be attentive • Convey a positive attitude to the coachee and a willingness to talk through the situation. Commit the time a time to have a focused conversation. • During the conversation, remind yourself that your role is not to interrogate the coachee, jump to advice giving, or solve the problem yourself. Listen. • Near the end of the conversation, you need to be able to accurately summarize the coachee’s main ideas, concerns and feelings. • Allow “wait time” before responding. Don’t cut the coachee off, finish their sentences, or start formulating your answer before they have finished. Be conscious of your body language.
7 Key Active Listening Skills • Ask open- ended questions. • These encourage the coachee to do the work of self reflection and problem solving, rather than justifying or defending a position, or trying to guess the “right answer” E.g. What do you think about…? and “Will you further explain/describe…?
7 Key Active Listening Skills • Ask probing questions. • The emphasis is on asking, rather than telling. It invites a thoughtful response by the coachee and maintains the spirit of collaboration. • You may say “What are some of the specific things you have tried? Or “Have you asked the team what their main concerns are?” or “ Does Emma agree that there are performance problems?” or “Are there any issues in your own leadership style that might be contributing to the situation?” and “ how certain are you that you have the full picture of what’s going on?”
7 Key Active Listening Skills • Request Clarification • Double check any issues that are ambiguous or unclear to you. If you have doubt or confusion about what the coachee has said, say something like “Let me see if I am clear. Are you talking about…? or “Wait a minute say that again. I didn’t follow you” if you have any doubt or confusion about what the coachee has said.
7 Key Active Listening Skills • Paraphrase • Recap the coachee’s key points periodically. Don’t assume that you understand correctly, or that the coachee knows you have heard. • E.g. your coachee may say “ Emma is so loyal and supportive of her people, they would walk through fire for her. But no matter how much I push, her team keeps missing deadlines”. To paraphrase, you could say “ So Emma’s people skills are great, but accountability is a problem”
7 Key Active Listening Skills • Be attuned to and reflect feelings, check perceptions • With active listening, you will be able to identify the feeling message that accompanies the content. This is an effective way to get to the core of the issue. • Check what you perceive to be the emotions that motivate the client’s communication . The concern is not what the client communicated in words as much as it s the emotion conveyed by their tone of voice.
7 Key Active Listening Skills • When you hear “ I don’t know what else to do” or “ I am tired of bailing the team out at the last minute” try to help the coachee label his or her feelings. You could say “ sounds like you are feeling pretty frustrated and stuck” • Summarize • Give a brief restatement of core themes raised by the coachee. • E.g. “ Let me summarize to check my understanding. Emma was promoted to manager and her team loves her. But you don’t believe she holds them accountable, so mistakes are accepted and keep happening. You have tried everything you can think of an there’s no apparent impact. Did I get that right?”
7 Key Active Listening Skills • From this point the conversation with the coachee can shift into problem solving, “what hasn’t been tried”, what don’t we know? what new approaches could be taken? • As the coach, you continue to query, guide, and offer, but don’t dictate a solution. Your coachee will feel more confident and eager if they think through the options and own the solution.
The Top five things a coach listens for • A coach will listen attentively and will be empathetic and non- judgmental • Coaches will listen for: • TRUTH: So that they can mirror back what is genuine and honest for the client • COMMITMENT: The client stories, beliefs, opinions and the underlying commitment, which is not being stated, but is attracting the experience • WHAT MOTIVATES: The coach will listen for what motivates a client, what excites them, what frees them, what inspires them.
The Top five things a coach listens for • STRENGTHS: The coach listens for the strengths in the client, their achievements, their skills, their talents, their qualities • FEARS, BLOCKS, PROBLEMS: The coach will listen for how the client sabotages his/her efforts, what prevents them form moving forward, repetitious patterns
Important points to note in Listening • In face to face communication, the verbal content makes up a small fraction of the message which is transmitted. Non –verbal communication (gestures, facial movements) make up the greater part of the message. • On Skype, Zoom or the telephone, gestures of course cant be received. The listener must rely on aspects of the verbal communication other than pure content, such as:
Important points to note in Listening • Pitch, tempo and volume are part of the message, which can indicate the energy level of the speaker • Breathing patterns can be detected. Sighs, pauses, running on without taking a breath and even the use of “Ummm” are indicators to listen for “ what do these patterns mean?” And the need to ask the speaker. • Active versus passive styles of speech can be noticed “I am enjoying this” versus “this is enjoyable”
Important points to note in Listening • Time references are important . “I am always messing up” “ALWAYS”? Or “I never do anything right”. NEVER?? • Listen for metaphors. “In the game of life, I’m a loser”. How’s that for a statement!
CONCLUSION • Active Listening is a skill which involves more than just waiting for someone to finish speaking so you can have a turn. It involves being “totally present and in tune” listening with a lot more than just your ears, it is about listening with your body, mind and heart most importantly being open to intuition • The acronym A C T I V E • A-TTRACTION : Listen to what the client is saying about the experiences they are attracting into their lives, the history, the stories. What is their story, what are their beliefs, what is their perception
CONCLUSION • C-AUSE: Listen for the cause of the situation. What or who do they blame? Is it a cause or a symptom? What symptom is being expressed? – frustration, anxiety, anger. • T-ONE: Listen for the tone in their voice, the pitch, the pace at which they speak, emotional cues, clarity with which they express themselves. What are they saying? • I-NTUITION: Listen for and Trust your inner voice, the messages, the images you receive, the sensations you may be feeling.
CONCLUSION V-ERBAL CUES: Listen for the language they use, for the avoidance of the questions, for whether or not the topic is being changed, for any detail, look for any withdrawal, listen for the silence. What are they not saying? E-MOTIONS : Listen for what emotions and feelings are being expressed or suppressed.
Resources • Worksheet-listening-quiz.doc • The science and Art of Listening - The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/opinion/sunday/why-listening-is-so-much-more-than-hearing.html • Article: Active Listening by Carl Rogers and Richard E. Farson • You tube: Active Listening: Carl Rogers • You tube: TedX Active Listening: What does it look and feel like Thomas Neal TedX Holyoke.