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Are you listening?

This past week it struck me that the word listen is made up of the same letters as silent. Coincidence?

Maybe we need to be silent to really listen a little more perhaps?

Yesterday I was busy redesigning a virtual learning workshop. As I was reflecting upon how much listening I do in my coaching career and as a facilitator, I realised… I listen a lot!!

Here are my top tips on active listening from my design work yesterday…

– Pay Attention! Don’t just listen to the words, or simply respond…hear the complete message, as Stephen Covey always used to say, listen to understand.

– Show that you are interested – nod, use facial expressions, use eye contact, make verbal comments like “uh huh” or I see.

– Listen to the other person’s story without being judgmental.

– Use empathy to understand and feel what the other person is feeling.

– Ask open questions to probe further, check for understanding and summarise.

– Don’t be afraid of silence – frequently that is when the most is going on.

How can you listen a little more today?

One by One

Over the last 30 + years, I have had many opportunities, with 1000’s of individuals to provide coaching, counselling or to share in a mentoring session together.

There are numerous articles, suggestions, models and books outlining what makes a great coaching conversation. In addition, I have also contributed to many discussions in lots of forums on the topic too.

I was however recently reminded again of a blindingly obvious point, it is this – simply stated, these conversations happen 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙣𝙚.

Intimate one by one conversations enable the most effective and powerful opportunities for change to occur. Giving someone your undivided attention for 30, 60 or even 90 minutes creates a powerful, meaningful, candid and insightful crucible for change. It is distraction free time.

Frequently, during these one by one moments a “reality check” occurs for the coachee. Indeed, a coaching conversation is perhaps the most personal and powerful form of communication and change that there is.

If you want change to happen, then you need to slow down, make time, listen to understand and consider the power of a coaching conversation, 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙣𝙚.

Who will you hold a coaching conversation with today?

Presence

Walking recently in our local park, my wife remarked about the beauty of nature – I must confess, I missed it.

In fact, upon reflection however, over these last few weeks as our number of daily walks together has increased, I have a second confession, I believe I am beginning to see, feel and hear.

Interestingly, I am noticing that many more moments are now filled with a sense of connection and peace.

Why is that we miss so many moments in our own life? Is it that there are always more busy or interesting thoughts that preoccupy and entertain our minds?

In my coaching practice I always endeavour to be present, attentive and observe what is happening in the moment, when meeting with clients.

In a like manner, a big learning take away during lockdown has occurred for me in magical woodland walks with my wife. She has taught me so much about being present, being in the moment to enjoy the beauty, see and smell the flowers and to hear the birds.

I am learning to stop and awaken my five senses of listening, touching, looking, smelling and tasting. In slowing down, I recognise that I still have much to learn.

How many moments do you miss?

Intuition

At the start of my coaching career I often thought – “I can’t say that” – but now as the years have gone by, I always do.

One of the great lessons I have learned in my coaching practice is to trust my intuition. “A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.”

In the beginning, I’d worry about where that may lead a coaching session, I guess it felt a little risky. Oftentimes, it does take the flow of the session in a new direction, but never a wrong one, simply a different one. On reflection those moments frequently turn into the most meaningful and insightful learning opportunities.

My philosophy now after years of practice, is to listen to that still small voice, its a feeling that always comes. Paying attention to and observing what is really going on, is a powerful enabler. It brings clarity. There are lots of different names in the coaching world for this, but experience has taught me to always follow and trust your intuition.

My invitation – start to take notice of yours and good things will happen too.

Good enough?

I have realised – its actually okay for me not to know the answer!

Several years ago, starting out in the coaching profession, I got a little concerned about how I can help others, when I knew very little about them, their profession, their situation or even their capabilities. In the beginning of my coaching career it did create a little personal anxiety!

As time passed, this may sound kind of strange or unusual to anyone not in the coaching world, but one of the greatest lessons that I have learned as a coach, is that I really don’t need to know the whole story. Nor is it for me to come up with answers!

As a coach I have to establish a safe space, build rapport, listen to understand, ask questions, guide, challenge and along the way, I may provide suitable interventions. My role is in fact to help every coachee to learn, grow, draw up their own answers, create a plan of action and follow up to achieve their aims.

If you are in need of some coaching – please do get in touch, I’m here to help!

Choices

Earlier this morning, I discovered this poem circulating on social media – appropriately written for our time. Before hastily returning to your pre-lockdown life, please consider these words. I hope we will all choose a better way. Enjoy!

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

𝑨𝒇𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒏𝒐𝒕𝒆: The poem is attributed to various authors from 1869, 1919 and even now in 2020 variations of the name Kathleen O’Mara, Catherine M. O’Meara and Kitty O’Meara. My own research indicates it was written only a few weeks ago for our day by Kitty O’Meara.

What are you choosing to change?

Compassion

We are entering unknown territory. One word plays constantly through my mind – 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒑𝒂𝒔𝒔𝒊𝒐𝒏. It literally means “to suffer with” to show mercy, pity and sympathy for another.

I am certain that as we enter the uncharted waters of our day, in the weeks that lie ahead, being more compassionate and having an awareness of others’ distress along with a desire to lighten or relieve those difficulties will be crucial for each and everyone of us.

You can show compassion by listening to others and being understanding. Please, put yourself in their circumstances and consider how they might feel. Showing compassion can be as simple as showing genuine interest in peoples’ lives.

Think of a time when someone really listened to you. How did it make you feel? How do you feel toward that person?

Lets be mindful of our family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours, especially the elderly and infirm – consider their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Who could benefit from your compassionate listening today? Who could use your actions of compassion today?

Listening

The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. Listening is not something that just happens (that is hearing), it is a conscious action of learning to listen and listening to learn.

I love this story from the biography of Marion G. Romney..“His good-humoured love for Ida was manifested in many ways. He delighted in telling of her hearing loss. ‘I once went to see a doctor about her hearing,’ he would say. ‘He asked me how bad it was, and I said I didn’t know. He told me to go home and find out. The doctor instructed me to go into a far room and speak to her. Then I should move nearer and nearer until she does hear. Following the doctor’s instructions, I spoke to her from the bedroom while she was in the kitchen—no answer. I moved nearer and spoke again—no answer. So I went right up to the door of the kitchen and said, “Ida, can you hear me?” She responded, “What is it, Marion—I’ve answered you three times.”

So, how are you doing? At home, with your spouse or partner, with your children, in the workplace, with your direct reports, or around the executive board table? Are you running on auto-pilot, nodding at the right time, dropping in a cursory yes or no to give an impression of listening.

Can you do better? Do you want to change?

Some simple tips:
– Speak less
– Be attentive
– Slow down
– Practice! Repeat, repeat, repeat