Most people who’ve asked me about coaching understand that its primary purpose is to help people make positive changes in their lives. What’s less clear to them is how working with a coach will make that happen. People often have in mind the stereotypical image of a sports coach exhorting a player to go and do more and do better!
So I’d like to speak now to a fundamental quality that great life coaches possess-- the art of listening and engaging from that place of deep listening with their clients. With their attentive listening, such coaches are attuned, beyond the words themselves, to what the quality and tone of a person’s voice can convey-- whether she is present or distant, energized or stuck.
As the authors of the book, Co-Active Coaching, state: “To be listened to is a striking experience-- partly because it is so rare. When another person is totally with you, leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize, you feel known and understood . . . Everything in coaching hinges on listening-- especially listening with the client’s agenda in mind....”
We don’t often have the experience of someone listening to us with an open mind and undivided attention as we talk about something that feels vital to us-- for example, a change that may be so radical and life-altering that we’ve never spoken about it to anyone else. “Feeling heard” is very much about feeling safe and supported in sharing a new-born, vulnerable part of ourselves. For many of my clients, this, in particular, has been a major gift of their coaching experience.
What is it, then, to be a life coach with the great privilege of helping people change their work and their lives-- by learning to be active and dedicated listeners ourselves? I’m a coach who deeply cares about people having livelihoods and lives that reflect and enhance who they genuinely are and what they truly value. I’ve had training and practice that’s helped me learn how to listen-- not just with my ears, but with my whole body-mind awareness-- to my clients’ deepest yearnings for, and hidden fears about, making changes that have soul and substance.
In this regard, I resonate to the following quote from Hilary Mantel’s amazing historical novel, Wolf Hall, about this ability to respond from a place of deep listening to help evoke transformative change in others:
He [Thomas Cromwell] takes it seriously, the trust placed in him; he takes gently from the hands of these noisy young persons their daggers, their pens, and he talks to them, finding out behind the passion and pride of young men of fifteen or twenty what they are really worth, what they value and would value under duress. You learn nothing about men by snubbing them and crushing their pride. you must ask them what it is they can do in this world, that they alone can do.The boys are astonished by the question, their souls pour out. Perhaps no one has talked to them before. Certainly not their fathers....
If you’re on the edge of making a change that could positively affect the way you work, relate, and affect the world around you, consider finding out for yourself what it means to be genuinely listened to and supported in creating the success you long for. Contact me for a free coaching consultation and experience for yourself the liberating gift of being “really heard.”