When we ask people what they get from our 1:1 coaching conversations they often say that they feel heard, understood and supported in a non-judgmental way. In other words, we listen.
How often have you been talking with someone and noticed them being distracted by something or not really engaging with you in the conversation? I would say that we have all experienced it and probably many times whether at work or with friends and whether the conversation was about something relatively unimportant or something life changing. How did you feel?
We could blame modern life in that it gives us many opportunities for distraction but it’s still our choice to follow that distraction or not and, if we do, we generally do not realise the impact that that choice has on those around us who may be wanting to share something significant. Imagine that your young child was excited to tell you something about their day but you missed it as you were only half listening while ‘multi-tasking’ or if they were troubled by something and you didn’t take the opportunity to be really present and understand what is happening for them.Listening requires effort and can be challenging at times, particularly if we’ve had a tough day, we’re caught up in our own thoughts, planning and internal dialogue, however it is a sign of respect, kindness, love and support for the other person when we are able to do it.
When someone is truly paying us attention, being in the moment and listening to what we are saying, we notice it and feel the difference. We recognise that they are connecting with us and the conversation, they are listening, engaged and interested and we sense it. Listening with the intention of understanding someone, rather than interrupting them with something we think is more important or more interesting, is a gift and yet it’s one that we may forget to give.
With that in mind, how good a listener are you? I think I’ve improved as I’ve got older and part of that is likely due to the fact that I started to lose my hearing in my early 30s; I currently have around 40-50% of normal hearing and, as a result, wear two hearing aids. The experience has certainly made me appreciate modern technology and I have had to learn or perhaps re-learn how to pay attention when someone speaks to me, particularly in relation to the 1:1 coaching work that we do, as I rely on sound and vision to get a complete understanding.
So, my need to listen carefully may be part of the reason that our clients feel that they are being heard and understood but a large part of it also comes down to giving them the opportunity to say what they need to without interruption or judgment and to be heard with respect and kindness. Maybe that’s something we can all improve.