Listen ……… Pause ………. Listen ………. Pause ……….. What are you hearing?
The sound of the room……… Your internal dialogue ………. To me talking? Where is your attention??
Where is my attention? For a coach this is a most important question to answer. I also assert that to be a powerful communicator we must also know the answer.
As a coach and trainer of coaches, The Skill of Listening is an extremely important one to learn. What I am about to share with you are some insider secrets of a coach who listens.
It may seem obvious that listening would be a primary coaching skill and yet really it is a LIFE skill and it is one we have to cultivate, practice and self-manage over and over.
The easiest and simplest way to explain it is by saying that there are 3 levels of listening. And, to keep it even simpler we will call these Levels 1, 2 and 3.
Level 1 Listening
When we are listening at Level 1, our attention is on the sound of our own inner voice.
We may hear the words of the other person, but mainly we are more aware of our own opinions, stories, judgments — our own feelings, needs, and itches.
We may be nodding, and going, “uh huh uh huh uh huh,” but inside we may be saying things like:
- “Oooooh, I had an experience just like that.” Let me tell you about it!!!”
- “Urrrggghh This is starting to bore me.” “Did I close the garage door?”
- “Ooh ooooh I’m so hungry; when was the last time I ate?”
- “Oh my, I’m terrified I’ll say the wrong thing and look stupid.”
Yikes! I’m sure you know already the result of this is that we are not present with the other person and missing the whole show over there!!!
To be fair though, there are plenty of times in our lives when it is perfectly normal and very important for us to pay close attention to our own needs and opinions and essential that we are listening at Level 1.
For example, when the contractor is asking you, “How do you want your kitchen remodeled?” is a situation when you want it to be all about YOU!
If you’re a coaching client, it’s essential that you are at Level 1. After all coaching is all about YOU your life, what you want, where you are and where you’re headed.
So, we could say Level 1 listening is Me me me me.
Level 2 Listening
At Level 2 Listening, there is a hard focus, even laser like.
All of the attention is directed one way from me to you.
For example, think of a mother with a sick baby; all of her attention is hard focused on the child. There might be great chaos all around her, but the mother stays focused on the child and its needs.
Picture two young lovers sitting on a park bench; their attention completely focused on the other person; they’re oblivious to the world around them as they listen intently to every word and nuance in the conversation. These two lovers are completely Level 2 with each other.
As a coach, I must be level 2. Remember the client is Level 1.
So level 2 is all about You You You You.
Level 3 Listening
Next we come to listening at Level 3
This is what we call Global Listening. It is a soft focus listening that takes in everything.
At Level 3, we are aware of the energy between our self and others. We’re aware of how that energy is changing, we have the ability to detect sadness, lightness, shifts in attitude. There is an awareness of the environment and whatever is going on there.
Here we are conscious of underlying moods, or tone, or the impact of the conversation — where it’s taking us and the person we are talking to.
Stand up comedians and performers have a highly developed antennae tuned to what is happening Level 3 in a room. They sense how the performance is being received — how the energy is building or dissipating.
Level 3 is also where our intuition will be most available to us.
To sum up: powerful and effective listening happens when we are attentive at Level 2 and Level 3 Listening.
So you can see, in order for coaching to be as effective as possible, a coach, as well as any powerful communicator, must be able to listen Level 2 and Level 3 and self-manage their Level 1.
Of course, even as powerful listeners, there will be times when we will drop into our Level 1 place and begin to have judgments and opinions about whatever is happening in the conversation. We might even fall into the trap of PUSHing our agenda onto the other person all of which creates a disconnect from the person and the conversation.
In conclusion, to be an effective listener the key is to notice when you are listening at Level 1 and self manage so you can begin to listen Level 2 and 3.
I guarantee practicing these skills of listening will change your relationships and conversations for the better.
Where are you listening from?