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Levels of ListeningThe holidays are in full swing and everyone is a flurry with activity. It is a time that causes us to rush from place to place just to get it all in. During the busy holiday season, I am reminded of the peace and rest that comes with taking time to sit back and truly listen to and experience the world around us. It is something that is seldom practiced in the hustle and bustle, yet there is so much richness when we take the time not only hear, but also listen.

As I am reflecting on this concept, it brings me back to the importance of listening as a coach. Listening is the gate through which all coaching passes. As an executive coach it is crucial to listen for all the signs of life as well as the choices a client is making and how they propel them towards or away from life they want to create.

Two Aspects of Listening in Coaching

  • Attention—this is the awareness of the information we receive through the senses of hearing, seeing and intuition. Attentive listening makes us critically aware of the variety of stimuli around us. There is clarity in this type of listening. It might be tuning into the tap of a pen or a vocal modulation, or it could be the pressure behind the words and the tone (soft, or hard edged, tentative or enraged), listening with attention allows a coach to gain context within a coaching session.
  • Impact—this is how our listening affects individuals in which we coach. How a coach listens to a client and what they do with that information can have a profound effect on the client.

The Three Levels of Listening

Level I: Internal Listening
Internal listening is very self-directed. The focus is inward instead of externally, and it is very personal. Some of the characteristics of this level of listening include:

  • Self Focused – During internal listening, the attention is on It resonates around the sound of our inner voice and what it is telling us about the things around us and our current situation.
  • Thoughtful Listening – Internal listen also includes an inner dialogue that involves our own thoughts, opinions, judgments, feelings and conclusions.
  • Appropriate level for the client – This level of listening is normal for a coachee and can even be beneficial for them. By contrast, it is not appropriate for the coach to listen at this level as it can have a very negative effect on the client and leave them feeling unheard.

Level II: Focused Listening

This level of listening is very intuitive and directed. It is a more active type of listening that requires concentration and interpretation to hear the “unsaid” themes and messages within a coaching conversation.

  • Attention is focused on the coachee—At this level of listening all attention is directed completely on the client and their messages.
  • Discover the message behind the words – During focused listening, the coach must take the time to listen to not only the words, but the expression, emotion, what is unsaid, the values and the vision.
  • Determine the Impact is on the client—When a coach is at a focused level of listening, they are acutely aware of how the client is reacting within the coaching conversation. Are they flourishing within it, or are they withdrawing? The coach draws attention to the coachee’s reaction and may use it to explore further through questions.

Level III: Whole Body Listening

This level of listening is the most active level. Within it, the listener is aware of more than just what they are hearing, but also the entire environment.

  • Listen at 360 degrees – The coach must take into consideration the surroundings and the impact they are having on the conversation. Using NLP we can match the clients body posture, breathing and gain greater insight into how they may be feeling and draw their attention to that.
  • Awareness of everything – this level of listening uses all the senses. Not only does a coach focus on what they hear, but also what they see, smell and feel.
  • Gives greater access to intuition – Within the whole body listening level the coach is very aware of everything within the conversation. This helps them to carefully assess the messages with greater clarity and understanding

Being able to understand and utilize all three levels of listening not only allows the coach to more successfully support the coachee and to help create new awareness around areas they may be unaware or unconscious about but it is also a skill, that the coachee can take back to their own lives and leadership roles to help them be more emotionally aware.

Do you need help developing the three levels of listening with your role as a coach? Or, perhaps you would like to learn how to develop these skills as a leader? Please feel free to contact the team at the Academy of Leadership Coaching & NLP to learn more.

 This material was adapted from: Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life, by Laura Whitworth, Henry Kinsey-House, Phil Sandahl, John Whitmore

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