Listen up

Listening is one of the core competencies of coaching, according to the ICF, coaching's international accreditation body. That means it's one of the basic skills required to be a coach. That's why I chose to write about listening in today's newsletter.

However, now I have to come up with something new to say about listening, a topic which has surely been beaten to exhaustion. 😱 You know what, I'm sure it will be great. Let's go!

The Art of Listening

Listening is key to coaching because it's part of conversation, and conversation is the engine of coaching. After all, without conversation, you're just two people looking at each other, and there's only so far you can get with that.

Being listened to is definitely part of the charm of being coached — getting your thoughts out without having to listen to someone else's hot take or hear about their problems 🙄 is priceless. (Although, if you're lucky enough to find one, a good bartender / hairdresser can serve the same purpose and set you up with a G&T / bang trim.)

But in coaching, there's a lot more to listening than just, well, listening. The skill also includes picking out the juicy nuggets — language about hopes, concerns, beliefs, and fears. It includes paying attention to body language and tone of voice, particularly when they are at odds with the words being said. Beyond just taking in input, active listening includes mirroring or paraphrasing what the coachee has said, summarizing, exploring and building on the coachee's ideas.

And, of course, I talked in a previous newsletter about how sometimes being able to talk it through is all you need to figure out the solution to your problem. (This is the coaching equivalent of your back cracking when you roll over at the chiropractor.)

But listening isn't just a coaching skill, of course. It's also a fun activity you can try at home or the office! You probably have the raw materials to do listening, whether you go the traditional eardrums route or are more a lip-reading-and-sign-language person. The catch is in not screwing it up.

Three Ways Listening Can Go Wrong

Zoning Out: It's not that people aren't interesting, it's just that there are so many other things to think about. And other stuff happening (like nearby conversations that might be about you, or cake).

Listening can be a great opportunity to practice those mindfulness skills: if you notice that your attention has wandered away, just bring it back. It's okay — it happens.

Planning What You're Going To Say: Maybe you think the person you're talking to is wrong. Maybe you believe that a conversation is combat, an opportunity to be the most clever. Maybe you're just really excited to talk about your trip to wherever. You can't wait for the other person to finish so it's your turn! You're so ready for your turn! Meanwhile, the other person has said three more things, none of which you have taken in because you're mentally rehearsing the brilliant thing you're about to say.

Take a breath. It's their turn. It's about them. Soon it will be your turn. And when your turn comes, take a second to think before you speak. You'll be able to come up with something clever and relevant, I promise (because you were listening), and as a bonus you'll look super philosophical and deep.

(Of course, this only works if you're talking to people who (a) occasionally stop talking, and (b) don't engage in conversational combat themselves. You'll soon figure out if you're with people who genuinely want to connect.)

Smiling and Nodding: I'll be honest: this is a favourite tactic of mine. It is so handy in a noisy room, when you're conversing in a second language, when you're talking to a mumbler, or when you zoned out (see above). But you can only get away with it if you don't care too much about the conversation; if you're really trying to listen, you have to come clean.

Practice saying, "Sorry, I didn't catch that..." "Sorry, I zoned out for a second..." "Sorry, I got distracted..." Everyone gets lost sometimes, and the person you're talking to will likely be more flattered that you care than annoyed about repeating themself.

What's New

What's new is I'm running out of pictures for this part of the newsletter. I'm amazed by Instagram coaches who seem to have an endless supply of professional portraits – them in the office, them at the beach, them on a sofa looking approachable yet firm. Are they all friends with photographers?

More importantly, my pay-what-you-can offer ends at the end of September. If you're thinking about coaching, get in touch. And if you know someone who might be interested in coaching, please pass my name to them. I can work with clients all over the world, and I'm particularly interested in working with researchers, software developers and engineers, musicians and creative entrepreneurs.

Fun and Interesting

  • May Pang challenged herself to create an intimate connection with strangers every time she took a Lyft. Here is what she learned: How to Instantly Create Intimacy With Any Person You Meet (Medium)
  • Giving feedback is an important part of leadership, whether you're a boss, a teacher, or a parent. It's also really hard, especially if your culture prizes harmony and courtesy – if it puts niceness before kindness. But Brené Brown says Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind. (
  • I've been listening to a lot of k-pop lately, and it's made me realize that, while I love music, my music theory knowledge is pretty slim. But I've been having lots of fun (and learning stuff) listening to classical musicians nerd out to k-pop on the React to the K Youtube channel.

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or hit forward and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

Copyright © 2019 Amy Rhoda Brown Coaching, All rights reserved.

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