With so much technology, media, and social media at our fingertips, we have a bunch of stimuli coming in at all times.
It’s great to have access to so much information, but on the flip side, it can make it difficult to truly focus on what’s in front of you.
Even when that thing in front of you is another human being.
A colleague at work is giving you updates on a recent project, but you’re thinking about what to make for dinner tonight.
Or a loved one is venting to you about something frustrating that happened during their day, or even something they’re proud of, and you’re spacing out.
This is what we call hearing without listening, aka passive listening.
Passive listening has become the norm, and it’s taking a toll on your relationships – both business and personal.
Listening, however, is a skill, and one that can be improved over time.
When you start to improve your listening skills, you engage in active listening.
What is Active Listening?
When you’re passively listening, you’re usually distracted or mentally checked out, you’re only taking in maybe half of what the other person is saying, and you’re not showing up for them in the way you should be.
Active listening, on the other hand, is making a conscious effort to stay engaged and present when someone is speaking to you.
When you become an active listener, your life starts to transform in more ways than you can imagine.
The Power of Active Listening
With so many people walking around distracted and checked out, being truly listened to can feel like a breath of fresh air.
Active listening shows the person that you’re talking to that you’re present, you’re being intentional about your interactions, and that you truly care.
Everyone wants to be seen and heard.
There are few things more frustrating than when you pour your heart out or are honest about something, just to have someone nod and respond with “Uh, huh. Sure.”
When you actively listen, you help people feel accepted, validated, understood – whether or not you agree with what they’re saying.
The world needs more active listeners, and you have the power to be one.
Why Coaches Need to Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a powerful tool no matter what field you’re in.
One role that can certainly benefit from it is coaches.
As a coach, you’re helping people step into a more authentic version of themselves. You want them to heal, transform, or change one or more parts of their lives. You’re there to give them the tools they need so that they can be the best version of themselves.
That’s difficult to do if you don’t understand your clients on a deeper level.
When someone chooses you as a coach, it’s because they trust you with this process. They trust that you will listen to them and understand the deeper layers that they uncover and that you will help guide them through the process.
What does it take to do this?
One big part is being an active listener.
Coaches who are excellent active listeners tend to have a better success rate, more return clients, enhanced customer retention and satisfaction, and you get to truly make a difference in people’s lives.
Becoming an Active Listener
Becoming an active listener doesn’t just happen overnight, but you can rapidly improve your skills by using some (or all) of these key tips:
- Remove the distractions: Put your phone down, or on silent. Set aside whatever you’re working on. Try to minimize distractions as much as you can when sitting down for an important conversation.
- Center yourself: Try taking a few deep breaths before starting a conversation, or another grounding practice you may have.
- Ask questions when appropriate: It shows that you’re engaged and curious. Just be careful not to interrupt their train of thought.
- Maintain natural eye contact: It doesn’t have to be constant, you don’t want to be creepy!
- If you miss something they said, ask.
- Set an intention: Before a coaching session or big conversation, you can say a mantra or affirmation like “I show up fully and in the present” or “I’m here to actively listen.”
- Be honest: No one is going to be an active listener all the time, that’s ok. If it’s an important conversation and you just can’t engage. Tell the person that you’re a little distracted right now, and you’d love to pick this back up when you can give them your full attention
Commit to incorporating just one or two of these tips into your conversations, and watch how fast your relationships transform! Little by little you can add more in, and before you know it, you’ll be one powerful active listener.