During the past five years that I have been coaching, I have discovered that listening is both one of the simplest coaching activities and one of the hardest. Good listening requires putting your own life on hold and giving another person priority. It requires putting the other person first. For most of us, this is not an easy task!
When I was doing my Doctor of Ministry degree work several years ago, two other students and I scheduled a meeting with the supervisor of the program to ask some questions about our work. Rather than being attentive to us, he spent the entire meeting shuffling papers around his desk and reviewing his desk calendar, avoiding eye contact. Although he assured us that he could do more than one thing at a time and heard what we were saying, we all left the meeting with the feeling that we had not been heard. His actions and responses did not communicate to us that he was listening.
One of the sayings attributed to Yogi Berra is “You can learn a lot just by listening.” If you are really listening, this is true. As I have developed and practiced my skills as a coach, I have learned to stifle my own responses to a client’s comments and listen to what he or she has to say—not only the words, but the attitude, intent, and meaning behind the words.
Being a good listener requires one to be attentive, receptive, and perceptive. What kind of listener are you? Even if you are not a professional or lay life coach, learning how to listen can enhance both your leadership and your relationships. Try it!