Most of us take listening for granted and do not think much about developing our listening skills. However, passive, uncritical listening can become short and shallow. Poor listening habits sometimes carry over to coaching conversations where careful attention is vitally important.
Active listening in coaching requires not only that the coaching client pay attention to the coach. It also requires that the coaching client understands and thinks about the information he or she receives. Listening must be active to be effective, and being an active listener is just as important in the coaching communication process as being a good speaker. In fact, many coaching clients are surprised by the effort active listening requires, as well as by the results they are able to achieve by listening actively to their coaches. To help, are some specific ways for you to become and/or remain an active listener throughout your coaching engagement:
1. Don’t listen only to yourself. The coaching conversation is a way for you and your coach to give and take ideas. It is not an opportunity to express your views without listening actively to what your coach has to say.
2. Listen carefully to your coach’s questions and suggestions. Make sure that you understand your coach’s remarks fully before you respond. Ask your coach to rephrase or explain a question if you have any doubts about its meaning. Or, say this before you give your answer: “Let me see if I understand your question. You want to know (rephrase it).” Make sure your coach agrees or disagrees with your interpretation before you begin your answer.
3. Focus your attention. Don’t engage in other activities during your coaching session. Give your coach your undivided and full attention. Turn off your cell phone. Let your coach know if something is going on with you physically or emotionally that is interfering with your ability to focus your attention on the coaching conversation.
4. Focus your eyes. Face your coach when he or she is speaking. Don’t let your eyes or your attention wander. Don’t let your coach’s mannerisms or noise in your environment distract you. Force yourself to listen, even when it is difficult to do so. Tell your coach if something is getting in the way of your ability to focus.
5. Keep an open mind. However, don’t accept blindly whatever your coach suggests. Remain critical. Look for missing and confusing information. Stay alert to your coach’s assumptions, opinions, and interpretations.
6. Probe for information and meaning. Speak up if you feel that your coach is not forthcoming in the way that you need him or her to be. Ask for clarification and feedback.
7. Ask your coach to repeat anything you miss or that confuses you. Also, ask your coach to repeat anything he or she says that is not clear to you. Tell your coach that you either could not hear your coach or understand him or her. Let your coach know that you “get it” after the repetition, either verbally or with a head nod.