Friday, June 20, 2008

Thanks for Listening

I just spent a couple hours listening to a friend. I wanted to gain a better understanding of something she's going through so I asked questions and listened to her responses. When I left the appointment I realized some of my assumptions had changed. I had a greater understanding of what she was experiencing and her thought processes.

Listening is hard work. I have to set aside uttering my thoughts and focus on what they are expressing. That means I hold off on responding to them immediately and just let them talk. When I went through my coach training, listening was one of the two basic skills (asking questions being the other one,) that we studied and practiced.

I realized fairly quickly in my conversations with friends and acquaintances, that there are few people who know how to listen without interjecting their thoughts or giving advice. Many of us are programmed to comment after someone says a few sentences. Every day I realize what a discipline it is for me to really listen to someone without throwing in my "take" on their situation. Breaking old patterns is a challenge.

In my coaching business I have to be careful not to give advice. To do so would be crossing the line into therapy. Instead I ask questions of clients which allow them to break down the issue into manageable pieces and to come to their own decision. Questions like "What would you like the end result to be?" or "Which of the options you've talked about are you most comfortable with?" help people move ahead when they are indecisive about something in their life.

If I have an observation I don't think they have considered, I should ask, "Would it be alright if I shared an observation with you?" People have always said "yes" (so far) when I submit that question. When I ask permission it shows I have a respect for their feelings and intellect and doesn't put me in a place of "talking down to them" as if I'm an expert on their life.

So I continue to hone my listening skills, both when coaching clients and with my friends and family.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Great post. You really have a gift for these.