Listening is potentially the most difficult skill in life, let alone in coaching. How often do you think you're listening carefully to someone only to realise that your mind has wandered off? Inevitably, a word or phrase from another person makes a connection in your brain, setting a trail of memories or possibilities in motion.
The International Coach Federation defines active listening as ‘the ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and not saying to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client's desires and to support the client's self expression.’ What a tall order to listen for – what isn't being expressed, as well as what is!
Listening requires you to know when to be silent and when to intrude with a question or comment that moves the client forward. Listening is an important skill so that you create the space to pick up on your client's:
Listening with empathy
People listen with different degrees of expertise. In his book Solving Tough Problems (Berrett-Koehler), Adam Kahane talks about the way he developed the ability to listen from the point of view of a whole system in order to be part of international peace situations. Specifically he says:
It is not sufficient to listen rationally to inert facts and ideas: we have to listen to people in a way that encourages them to realise their own potential and the potential in their situation. This kind of listening ...