Effective communication starts with active listening – give the gift of attention

Gifts I love Christmas and the giving and receiving of gifts, but Christmas is over now and I’ve been thinking about a gift we can give all through the year – the gift of attention.

Most of us think we are good listeners (especially coaches, mentors and therapists), but a study into what makes good communication shows that professionals allow their clients on average only twenty seconds before intervention.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to observe Nancy Kline, author of ‘Time to Think’, give a coaching session; it was a great opportunity to stop and reflect on the importance of active listening in coaching. Nancy argues that “The most valuable gift we can offer each other is the framework in which to think”. She believes the purpose of professional coaching is to create the conditions for our clients to think for themselves, by giving them the gift of attention.

Most coaches would agree with this. Nancy’s approach rests on the idea that the quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first, and the observation that how we listen to each other (or not) has an immensely powerful impact on our ability to think well.  Effective listening helps individuals and teams build stronger relationships, improve strategic thinking, develop the capacity to innovate and take leadership. It’s fundamental if you want to use your time well and succeed in business, or anywhere else for that matter. That’s why we usually begin our courses at Wise Goose with active listening.

Nancy certainly made me think. How often do I rush in with advice, finish sentences and fill pauses? How often am I so busy preparing a reply, occupied with my own ideas, making a diagnosis or formulating questions that I’m unable to give my full attention? For our finest thinking to flourish we need space; space to allow the seed of an idea to develop to the point where it is ready to bear fruit in our actions but it is rare to find someone who can give their whole attention in a way that facilitates this creative process. Although there are techniques that help to develop good listening this is really about learning a way of being present with another person. Nancy calls this shifting from “listening to reply” to listening that “ignites the spark” of a client’s own ideas and solutions.

Would you like to create an environment where high quality thinking can surface?  You might like to begin by experimenting with the suggestions below:

• It’s tempting – but don’t interrupt! Listen for longer than feels comfortable. Notice when you start drifting off into your own thoughts and gently bring yourself back. This sounds easy but it’s fiercely difficult.

• Assume others can think well and think for themselves.

• The next time someone comes to you with a problem give them a chance to thoroughly explore their own ideas first (you can always give your opinion later).

Follow this link to watch a short YouTube video where I talk about listening http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7saOJ8HEKac

Share your thoughts:

We would love to hear your thoughts about this topic and how your own listening experiments progress.




Leave a Reply