3 Coaching Tips on How To Become a Better Listener
Can you remember the last time you really felt heard?
I mean, how often have you reached out to someone to share your thoughts and feelings only to have them respond with thoughts and feelings about themselves.
Were you left wondering if they even heard you?
It happens all the time. You say blue, the other person says black and it’s like two energy streams that bypass each other in mid air.
You know what it feels like when those energy streams converge?
I do. It feels incredible. It feels like one of those weighted blankets has gently wrapped itself around you.
And I bet you can count on one hand how many times this has happened for you!
Here’s the good news, you can learn to be one of the few who can really listen to your friend, your child, your partner or spouse. And give the gift of a weighted blanket to comfort them, metaphorically speaking.
In this blog, I am going to share with you 3 fantastic tips that come from my 25 years of personal growth and life coaching, tips you can try today. You’ll learn not to jump to a solution, how not to make it about you, and to let go of judgment.
Learning to be a great listener is empowering. There is great comfort in knowing how to handle people’s emotions. It’s a real gift you give them to truly listen. A gift that feels amazing in the giving. And who knows, hopefully, you’ll find someone who knows how to listen to you in return.
3 Coaching Tips to Learn How To Become a Better Listener
TIP ONE: Do Not Jump to Solution
It’s really natural for people to jump to solving a person’s problem when they come to talk with you.
For example, your child comes to say they’re feeling left out at school. And you say, “Have you told the teacher?”
Do you see how you jumped right to finding a solution. How “heard” does your child feel?
I bet you’ve had the same experience. You speak to your partner about something that happened between you and a friend that morning. You share how disappointed you feel. And your partner says, “What did you do that upset them so much?”
Solution. Solving. Fixing…
It’s a really bad habit. It’s a cultural habit. Every manager, teacher, parent or spouse wants to solve the problem immediately. I bet you do it too.
It’s a way to try to avoid and eliminate the pain.
We are, as a culture, really uncomfortable with emotions.
And so, it takes some real self-management not to jump in and try to fix everything.
Here’s what you do instead.
You listen. Yup, you keep your mouth closed, manage the urge to fix and take a breath. Then you get curious. What else is your friend or child feeling? How long have they been feeling this way? What else is going on with them? How sorry you are they’re going through this?
There is not one bit of “fix it” in that listening response.
Rather, you are curious to understand more of how they are feeling. You are standing with them in their upset. You are allowing them to feel it, share it and look at it.
Likely, after a few minutes of you listening like that, they will start to move toward how to fix it. They will go to a solution and then you can help them out with that. But they are the ones who do the move, not you.
This ability to hold space for them while they are expressing their feelings is such a beautiful gift.
They will feel heard, seen and valued. That in itself is part of the solution. As they feel comforted, they are able to move into sorting out the problem and fixing it themselves.
TIP TWO: Do Not Make it About You
This is my favourite. How many times have I shared something that was bothering me only to have the person “listening” share immediately how they had the same situation?
Me: “I don’t feel right about the way the landlord is stringing us on about our new lease agreement. I feel scared.”
Other: “Oh, I had that happen once with my landlord. They ended up giving me notice and raising the rent at the same time.”
Not only was their answer feeding into my own anxiety, I left feeling empty, wondering, “Did they even see my pain because they didn’t acknowledge it at all?”
It’s a bad habit to make the situation all about you when you are “listening” to someone else.
I understand that this kind of sharing is a way to say “I hear you. I’ve been there too.” But in fact, it really has the opposite effect. It’s more like I hear me, myself and I!!!!
There is a better way to try to connect with someone when this happens.
Here’s what you do instead.
Reflect back to them what you heard them say.
Me: “I don’t feel right about the way the landlord is stringing me on about my new lease agreement. I feel scared.”
Other: “Oh, you feel scared about the landlord stringing you on about your new lease agreement!”
Yes. I can feel you squirm. That does seem odd to simply reflect back, but in fact it’s one of the best responses you can have.
Because it’s like holding up a mirror to your friend. They get to see themselves from a slightly different angle. They get to say, yes…that’s it. Or they get to say, no…I’m actually angry.
Either way, you helped them to understand themselves better.
On top of that, their emotional brain will go, “Wow…you really got me. I feel seen.” And when someone feels seen, they feel valued. And when they feel valued, they feel better. No matter what the upset, when they feel seen, heard, and valued, their emotional brain lets go a little. And the upset starts to diminish.
What a wonderful thing to do for someone.
TIP THREE: Do Not Judge or Give Advice
Oh boy, this is a challenge because really, we all have opinions that we know are right. And so we just love telling people what to do!
It helps us feel powerful.
And we will share it. We have an opinion about the landlord. We have advice on how to deal with it. We have the answers. We know what our kid should do about feeling left out. We tell them what to do.
None of that is actually about listening. It’s about telling!
Sure, we can get to all that eventually.
Here’s what you do instead.
But first… Listen. And use all your self-management not to judge the speaker or the things the speaker is sharing.
Because judgment closes people down.
It’s like having a door shut in your face. That’s the very opposite of listening.
Sometimes, you might have to relax and breathe as the person is talking. That’s a way to let go of the judgmental thoughts running through you.
Sometimes, you can use the “get curious” skill. Imagine you are in a foreign land watching something the locals do that is strange and new to you. Wouldn’t you become curious about it?
Well, your friend, colleague or child is like a foreign land when they are bringing their upset to you. Use that curiosity muscle instead of judging them or others involved in the problem.
By the way, the other side of judgment is love.
Turn on your love, your compassion and your open heartedness. When you listen like that, you can help them in ways you can’t even imagine.
I tell my Life Coaching Certification Course students to learn to listen with their whole body. That means, open your heart as much as your mind and allow the person you are listening to to share their complete truth, their complete selves by giving them a space of no judgment.
They will be uplifted by your act of generosity.
So there you go.
Here’s a summary of the 3 Coaching Tips to Learn How To Become a Better Listener.
Do Not Jump to Solution: Instead, get curious by asking questions to help the speaker go even deeper with their sharing. Let them explore the problem until they are ready to move to the solution themselves.
Do Not Make it About You: Instead, manage your urge to share your own story and instead reflect back what you heard the speaker say. That way, the speaker will be able to get clarity and insight into their own situation.
Do Not Judge or Give Advice: Instead, hold your tongue as they used to say. Or zip your lip. Rather, get curious, go over to their side of the experience and explore with them what it’s really like for them. Keep your heart open and they will find comfort and healing in your actions.
Becoming a great listener is a true gift to everyone around you. And you can learn how to be a professional listener in our Life Coach Certification Course. This next round starts February 22, 2022. Learn more here…
Thanks for being here.
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