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Two mid-adult office workers talking

How is it that you participate in conversations? Do you just hear people or do you truly listen? Yes, there is a distinction. Just because you hear words come out of someone’s mouth doesn’t mean you are listening.

There are times when we are distracted or have our own agenda. What we hear then becomes like the “wah-wah-wah” of the teacher character in the Charlie Brown cartoons. No words, no meaning, just noise. If you are busy formulating the point you want to make or looking for the next time the speaker is going to take a breath so you can jump in with your agenda, you are not listening.

Two people can participate in a situation where both speak and no one listens. This is not effective communication. To be engaged and be engaging you need to add in the element of listening. Coaching creates an incredible opportunity to develop extraordinary listening skills. It is an extreme scenario as the focus is on creating a space for the client to speak their own wisdom and insights into to find their own answers.

My listening is on high alert as a coach. It isn’t just the content of what a client is sharing with me I’m paying attention to. I listen for breathing patterns, the energy level and tone of their voice and the language they use. When I truly listen, I can help the client generate awareness based on what they’ve said, not what I think. From there, they get fresh insights into whatever area they are working on in the session.

If I allow an agenda or personal need to infiltrate the session, I am no longer serving my client. I have become self-serving which is grounded in lack of self-confidence and a need to prove something. This is not client-centered. It’s not that I don’t have a significant amount of life experience to offer. However, when a client uncovers their own answers their ability to incorporate the new approach and insights to transform their life they are most likely to maintain those changes.

How might your relationships change if you entered every conversation open to the possibility that each person has the potential to offer something to you?

Take time over the next few days to really be present in your communications and notice if you are hearing people or truly listening to them. Say fewer words, ask more questions and be open to learning something new about others and yourself. Notice how listening is a gift that flows back the other direction and how having an opinion or idea to share isn’t always the path to contributing something to a conversation.

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