Powerful Listening Is THE Basic Life Coaching Skill

by Jean-Paul Cortes

Human beings normally have two ears, nevertheless it's our one mouth that takes the show. Even if most of us describe ourselves as "being good listeners," what we end up hearing most of the time is ourselves.

We may be born with the ability to listen, but listening effectively is a skill that must be mastered. If you're a life coach, ever the more so.

As with learning any other skill, there is theory and there's practice.

First, the theory:

The essence of powerful listening is being able to focus on what another person is saying without being distracted.

When someone speaks, they want to feel heard, this need is ingrained in all of us. Human beings need to communicate, when we can't or feel that we're not being listened to, it affects that most basic part of ourselves – our self esteem.

As a coach, sometimes you're required to listen to what'sbehind the words being said to you. Words describe our reality, what we interpret our world as being like, although it may not be immediately apparent.

True listening can provide the insight you need to help your clients shift perspectives that may be harming them.

Listening allows people the space they need to articulate andsee different and more empowering perspectives. The central purpose of listening is to understand someone's point of view, how they think and feel and how they move through the world.

As a life coach, you're listening for what inspires a client, for what excites them, sets them free and keeps them moving forward.

You listen for what would fulfill their dreams and hopes, and for what may be getting in the way of reaching their dreams.

How to avoid tuning out and getting tuned in

How would you rate yourself as a listener?

Do you believe that listening is just about hearing until the other person has stopped talking, so you can share your thoughts about the situation?

I'm sure you must have caught yourself doing, or thinking, about other things while someone has been speaking with you.

It's hard to be an effective listener, but here are some tips to help you on your way:

  • Practice awareness: mindful awareness of what's going on within and without allows you to notice all the little things that are usually hidden behind our mental discourse.
  • Be in the present: this is the only place where we are anyway, and yet most of us usually are remembering the past or planning for the future. Being centered in the present moment forces you to pay attention to what's being said.
  • Remain silent: give a few seconds pause after someone stops speaking, you may be surprised that the other person has a lot more to say.
  • Repeat back what you've just heard: we usually interpret what's being said with our own thoughts about the situation. Repeating back what you think you're hearing, allows you to step into the other person's shoes and clarify what is truly meant.
  • Check for perceptions and emotions: there are hidden emotions and perceptions within the words we speak, be careful to notice them early on.
  • Be patient and give space: sometimes it takes time to get to the root of things.
  • Gently push: most people are afraid of talking about their feelings, aspirations and thoughts; a skillful listener strives to create a safe environment where fear is diminished.
  • Don't judge: you may think that you know what your client should do, but the truth is that each one of us has our own path, to see things for ourselves in order to change them.
  • Trust your inner guidance system: intuition is our best ally in listening; your inner self knows the importance of listening, pay attention to it.

Listening is much more than nodding your head up and down while someone is talking, it requires paying attention and presence of mind.

A lot more is said behind the words because language is only the description we make of reality. The mental map we create of how we believe things to be; so in listening, what we're attempting to do is to understand what someone is trying to describe and not our own description.

So you might have guessed already that a big part of listening, is actually in asking questions, waiting for the answer and figuring out what the meaning is behind the words.

Asking questions is actually the sister skill to powerful listening, but that is the subject of another article.

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