I tell the story of my daughter who came to me one day, with a request about needing to go to the mall with some friends. At that moment I was also engaged with a colleague on my phone. I proceeded to respond to what I thought I heard my daughter say. She looked at me, and blurted out: “mom, you’re not even listening”. With that, she ran out of the room, tears streaming down her cheeks! Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing and went to her, to console and really listen to her.
How many of you have experienced this, when you felt that someone was partially listening to you, or that you were partially listening to someone? It happens all the time, especially in our current world where there is a lot to distract us.
What is Active Listening?
Wikipedia describes active listening as a technique that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires the full concentration of the listener, in order for him or her to understand and respond to what the speaker is saying. According to Dean Jackson, “…it is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” Active listening requires putting focus on the person we are listening to, instead of on ourselves. It means, listening without a rush to respond.
Active Listening Leads to Powerful Questions
When we listen actively, we can understand what is said and what is not said. This in turn would lead to asking appropriate and powerful questions. Asking appropriate and powerful questions would do a number of things for the one being listened to:
- It might help shine the light on a blind spot that the speaker may not have realized was there. Active listening therefore leads to self-awareness. Many people remain stuck in what they feel life has handed them, because no one has made them aware that they are stuck.
- It can lead to a change in perspective. When we listen to someone, we can mirror back their words to them. Sometimes, when they hear us repeat to them what we hear them say, it might help them realize that they are operating from a wrong perspective, and may move them from point A to point B.
- It may create an opportunity for clarification. When we listen actively, we can be curious about what we are learning, and then find out from the speaker if that was the intended message. Active listening therefore leads to judgement-free communication.
The Coach and Active Listening: As important as active listening is, not many people practice it, or even know how to do so. It is however, one of the fundamental skills that a coach must have in order to serve their client well. A coach knows to listen 80 percent of the time and speak 20 percent of the time. A coach realizes that many people are stuck because no one takes time to listen to them actively, hear their opinions, their perspectives, nor are interested in fully engaging with them. A coach is ready to hold space for you, support and help you to achieve the breakthrough that you seek. Do you have a coach or need one? Book a call today?