How to REALLY Listen to Your Life Coaching Clients (Coaching Session Skills Training Series, Part 2 of 4.)
If you’re a woman, I’m most positive you’ve had the experience of pouring your heart out to someone, only to realize they misinterpreted most of what you said. Or worse, they weren’t really listening at all.
Especially if you’re a woman who has dated men.
I adore my man, and he does listen to me. He’ll sit up and listen, even if it’s 10pm after a long busy day, after being up three nights in a row with our daughter and up at 5am to trade with the stock market. He’s so sweet. He’ll listen, and sometimes when he reflects back his interpretation of what I said, it’s nowhere close to how I feel or what I was truly communicating.
Listening, I mean REALLY listening is a skill set that very few embody naturally or practice enough to become masterful. Even if you pride yourself on being a great listener you may not realize that you are distracted by your own beliefs and agenda.
Especially in a coaching session. Master coaches and feminine leaders know how to separate their own ideas, triggers and interests when listening and deciding how to guide a client.
Think about it. How many times has a client been talking and you’re already thinking of what you want to say or nodding your head because you relate, and can’t wait to share a profound story with them?
Guess what? You’re actually being a mediocre listener in that moment. It requires knowledge and devotion to utilize listening as an asset in coaching sessions. People who desire real change will pay top dollar for pro coaches who’ve mastered the art of listening.
In fact, you could create a coaching empire on the skill of being a listener alone!
You really may be focused on your client’s voice, hearing her words and holding space for all of her feelings. And if that’s all you’re doing, then you’re not really listening at all! There’s a beautiful, complicated and intricate art to listening.
Listening techniques are so important to your success as a coach. To support you I’m going to share a few secrets with you today as a part of the 4-part Coaching Session Skills series I’m sharing with you this month.
Last week in Part 1, you learned all about the two key questions it takes to understand the world your client lives in, as well as the world she’s created inside her head.
This week for Part 2, we’re covering some powerful listening techniques you can use right away, in your very next coaching session.
There’s a famous demonstration that makes a powerful point about education and pattern recognition. The presenter places a pile of clear gems on a table, explaining that one of the gems is a diamond, while the others are just crystals. The presenter offers $1,000 to anyone in the audience who can pick out the diamond. Someone volunteers, but fails to find the diamond – he’s obviously just guessing!
Then the speaker demonstrates that – BOOM – a true expert can find the diamond within seconds.
The point of this demonstration? You must be highly-trained to know how to differentiate the diamond from the crystals. Only the highly-skilled can quickly spot a diamond in a pile of gems!
And as a life coach, listening is the tool you’ll use as you look for those hidden diamonds in all the information your clients share with you.
With listening skills comes the ability to change someone’s life in the blink of an eye. It is also a beautiful and feminine practice to become such an embodied listener you waste no time with worn out gems when the diamond is in plain sight. Ready to learn how to use listening techniques like a pro? Let’s do it!
So, what is listening?
Listening is the ability to eliminate everything that’s in your head, everything else going on around you and simply be inside your client’s mind. Listening is understanding not only the words your client says, but her intention and meaning. It’s uncovering the feelings she’s trying to convey behind the words.
You also want to listen for what the client isn’t saying. Can you go beyond what’s said and not get hung up on the client’s description? There might be reasons why she avoids certain subjects or certain points of view – as a life coach, it’s up to you to feel into what those reasons could be.
Sometimes your client will talk and talk about certain subjects in order to cover up something else. She may even admit it!. But she’ll still figure out ways to distort and minimize whatever it is.
What is the client’s agenda, her underlying concerns and desires? If you think your client is covering something up, you’ll want to ask her:
“What are you not telling me? By telling me all of this, what are you covering up?”
Don’t say this in a mean way! But say it intensely enough to get to the truth. It’s so important that we get the truth out of our clients – it’s surprisingly easy to simply get swept along with their stories.
It’s also annoyingly easy to get caught up in our own stories, beliefs and interests. Listening means getting out of your head, your heart, your story and looking for what belongs to the heart, soul and mind of the person in front of you. Your beliefs, mirrors, light and dark shadows have nothing to do with your client. Mastering listening will allow you to become a true life coach. Listening is what separates you from being a friend or consultant, it is what makes you a transformational life coach.
You might also hear a client say one thing with her words but say something completely different with her voice tone. For instance your client might say, “I’m happy!” with a sad tone of voice. Be on the lookout for incongruities like these.
Does her tone of voice, body language, and even the tempo of her words match what she’s saying? Don’t be afraid to respectfully call your client on the incongruity anytime your radar goes off and tells you there’s something fishy going on! Bring it up and say something like, “Hey that doesn’t really make sense,” or “That doesn’t ring true. Tell me what you really mean.”
There are so many limitations in the use of language that sometimes make it hard for her to communicate what she really means. Probe until you get the answer and tell her what lands as truth for you and your intuition.
The 7 levels of quiet communication in a life coaching session
There are different levels of intention and understanding that will come up with your clients at various points in your coaching relationships. With time, you’ll get your coaching questioning and communication style to the level that matches up with your client. You will want to recognize what stage of quiet communication she is operating in naturally and then work to move her up to Level One throughout your relationship.
When your client is communicating at Level One you are finally at a space in your coaching relationship where she is able to take action and get results.
Here are the 7 levels of quiet communication. In your next client session, start feeling into where you think she might be:
Conscious Communication. She’s tuned into all the important aspects of her life and is clear about what action to take.
Understanding. When your client understands and communicates all the important aspects of themselves and their life, but they’re not taking action.
Misunderstanding/miscommunication. Your client is misunderstanding themselves or miscommunicating some really important aspect within themselves.
Ignorance. This is when your client is ignorant of certain aspects of themselves or their life and therefore fails to communicate them to you by default.
Self-deception. Your client is unknowingly or unconsciously deceiving themselves and you by avoiding communication or the truth.
Benevolent deception. Your client is knowingly deceiving you for some good intentional reason and this could be self-protection, to try to save face or to try to protect to you.
Malicious deception. When your client is trying to harm you or the coaching relationship with her deceptions.
Why is it so important for your life coaching client to feel you understand her?
Your client needs to regularly increase her confidence in your ability to help her get the result she needs, and she won’t follow your coaching or even continue with the coaching relationship if she isn’t confident in your ability to help her. This starts with really hearing her and helping her to learn how to communicate better.
One way you can convince your client of your ability to help her is to demonstrate you understand her problem or situation even better than she does.
Everything you do to make your client feel understood should be done with the intention of deeper and complete focus on the client. Mirror the tonality in her voice quality and match her word choice. Be sure to repeat what she really means, attempt to find and share the essence of your client’s communication and intention.
As a life coach, you want to share your client’s expression back to her better than she did: with more clarity, simplicity, or maybe even more emotionally.
After all, your client hired you to facilitate communication between the two of you! Take this process seriously, as though your client’s life totally depends on it. Once you master this level of listening you can naturally move on to other core skills as a coach.
Last week we learned the 2 questions you MUST ask to correctly diagnose your clients, and today we covered these tried-and-true listening techniques. Next week, we’re going to dive into the communication techniques you can use in every coaching session.
This is also a great time for you to feel into whether you’d like to deepen your learning along your coaching journey and commit to growing exponentially during this next year. The women who join my all-in premium life coaching program, Mentor Masterclass, grow rapidly because I practice this level of listening with them, and walk alongside them as they experience the first year of launching their coaching business.
You can apply for Mentor Masterclass and become a part of this intimate circle of women who work closely with me and with one another.
And don’t forget: next week is Part 3 of this free training – I’ll see you there!
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