Saturday, February 21, 2015

Listening well

As I learn more about coaching I am recognizing the need to really be a better listener. I am not very good at it. Not that I 'don't' listen, but I don't listen well. Listening is probably the most basic, and important, skill necessary in being a good coach (meaning=life coach/personal coach/ministry coach).

I've been reading through Linda Miller and Chad Hall's book Coaching for Christian Leaders: A Practical Guide. It is a really good introduction and refresher on coaching. They stress that the two core coaching skills are listening and asking precise questions. In fact, these two skills are the foundation for all other coaching skills. I agree.

Two facets of listening that make all the difference are: 1) The ability to stay present, and 2) The ability to stay focused. They list some tips for great listening on p. 30:
  1. Maintain eye contact when face to face.
  2. Reduce visual distractions, especially when on the phone.
  3. Put phones and emails on silent mode so they don't intrude on the conversation.
  4. Determine ways to reduce mental distractions.
  5. Allow for silences instead of immediately jumping in with something.
  6. Be aware when you are interrupting...stop it!
  7. Relax and pay attention to all that is being said.
  8. If necessary, take notes to stay focused and to remember details.
  9. Take two to three minutes of quiet time before you are called on to be an active and present listener. Take a few deep breaths, say a prayer, and determine what will help you to be ready to listen.
Listening is largely a matter of patience and focus. They share that great coaching requires listening in three ways:

1. The coach listens inwardly in an effort to self-manage and be in total service to the client. Listen for key words shared; remind yourself to suspend judgment; comment only on what is being said - especially if something is repeated - rather than something you want to interject.

2. The coach listens to the person being coached, focusing on what is said and what is not said - energy, body language, tone of voice, and flow of the conversation.

3. The coach listens to the Holy Spirit for insights, intuitions, and revelation that cannot come from words alone.

I need to read this chapter over and over again (actually, the entire book). Again, not that I'm a terrible listener, but I can be easily distracted. I also have trouble focusing all my attention on any one person or any one area. Sometimes I really suck at it. But it is something we can all improve at and be quite good at if we want to.

Another thing to remember... as the authors suggest... the goal with listening is to focus on the person being coached (or listened to). It is important to be aware of refraining from 'self-referencing.' Not only does this mean avoiding the tendency to one-up the other person with a story of your own, it also involves keeping the focus on them even with our questions. For example, a self-reference could be, "Tell me more about that," or, "I'd like to know more." Instead, simply saying, "Say more about that," keeps the focus on the person talking. It's a subtle distinction, but can make a huge difference.

So, there ya go. I want to be a better listener. I need to be a better listener. And I believe I can be. It's a good thing I have this blog to do my "talking." ;)