Live By Listening

I do much of my coaching in my home office where my wife occasionally overhears my coaching conversations. She has learned to tell the difference between the levels of listening I use with clients. Like all of us, she wants me to really listen to her. She’s learned to know the difference and is no longer content when I am not listening deeply enough. If I don’t listen or jump to solutions too quickly, she gets frustrated and wonders why I can’t treat her like I do my clients. And if I apply listening skills that are too deep, she will tell me, “Don’t coach me, Dave.”

One of the best explanations of listening skills that I have encountered in my Coaching practice is the book Co-Active Coaching by Kimsey-House. Over the past year, the HGL coaches have been reading and discussing the key elements of coaching addressed in the book. I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned about listening:

Basic Listening

Listening at the most basic level, Level 1, is hearing through the filter of the listener’s own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. As they listen, the listener is preparing their response in a way that conveys how what they hear means to them, sometimes with a story of their own experience or a quick solution based upon that experience.

At this level, we hear what we want to hear and can often misjudge the speaker’s intent. This is the level where most people listen. We can all relate to conversations with our spouse or others we know well which have led to misunderstanding or an accusation of “Why don’t you listen to me?”  At this level, the speaker can feel frustrated and disconnected with the listener.

Speaker-Focused Listening

Level 2 listening is much more focused on the speaker, and the listener suspends his or her own opinions, judgments, and attitudes. The listener is not only hearing the words, but also the tone, pace, and feelings expressed. This type of listening generates empathy and collaboration.

Questions are asked by the listener to deepen awareness and connection with the speaker. Active listening techniques are used such as: paraphrase/telling back with statements like: “What I heard you say was …” and checking perceptions and reflecting back with statements like: “It sounds like you’re feeling …”.  At this level people feel really listened to and emotionally connected to the listener.

Intuitive Listening

Level 3 listening is using your intuition to discern more than the information gained through your senses. This is a level of listening that captures an awareness of the entire environment of the speaker, beyond just the words, tone, pace or even the feeling being expressed. It includes the energy that is being expressed and leverages intuition to combine information received through the listener’s senses. Through powerful questions, such as “What’s really important to you?” or “What’s motivating you?” the listener can tap into this deepest level of listening.

Coaches endeavor to spend their coaching time engaged in Level 2 and Level 3 listening. It’s on these levels where transformation can occur. When people feel really listened to, they see themselves more objectively and are able to step outside of themselves and the situation they are in to achieve breakthroughs in challenges they are facing.

In relationships that really matter, such as spouses, friends, clients, and significant others, listening skills can make or break the relationship.

Some people love coaching because it’s the only time they feel someone really listens to them. Do you have someone listening to you? Are you listening to others?

Post contributed by Dave Vogelpohl, HGL Coaching Catalyst.

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