Happy New Year! In this series of Vigour’s “Coach Tips,” a different coaching skill will be discussed every month. The discussion will include recommended books to read as well as tips to immediately apply to your daily life and work routine to help strengthen the skill.
If I was to rank all coaching skills, listening would be at the top of the list. The art of listening is foundational to any effective communication and without it, none of the other skills matter. I call listening an “art” because in this age of technology and social media, we are constantly bombarded with distractions that take away from our ability to truly listen to what others have to say.
The good news it that listening is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with increased awareness and a desire to change. Two books that talk about listening skills that have had the most positive impact on me are:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
- Co-Active Coaching, by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Philip Sandal and Laura Whitworth
Covey’s habit #5, “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” is about listening with the intent to understand rather than to respond (p. 237, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). This requires a higher level of listening than how we might normally find ourselves listening throughout the day. It requires what Covey calls “empathic listening,” listening not only with your ears but with your eyes and heart as well. This focused listening requires that you “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” in order to understand their frame of reference. To truly be a good listener, you must take the time to understand their perspective, before sharing yours.
In Co-Active Coaching, the highest level of listening is global or environmental listening. This is similar to what Covey calls “empathic listening” where you notice the energy level and emotions, not just the words being spoken.
So how do we work towards listening in a more focused way? There is a listening exercise that my kids learned in school that can be used by adults too, and it’s called the “STOP, LOOK and LISTEN” exercise. When someone asks you a question, STOP what you are doing, removing all distractions, so that you can focus on them. Then LOOK at them, maintaining eye contact and observing any emotions or body language. You are then ready to LISTEN in a more focused manner.
If listening is a skill that you would like to strengthen, I encourage you to try these steps over the next while, and let me know how it works for you. If you have any other tips or exercises that you would like to share, please do so in the comments section below.
All the Best in 2017,
Bev Bourque, MIR, BComm., CPCC, ACC
Professional Coach & HR Consultant, Vigour Coaching
c: 587.646.3799 e: firstname.lastname@example.org