Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • June 6, 2023 • 5 Minute Read
PCC Marker 6: Listens Actively
Competency 6: Listens Actively
This competency, Listens Actively, is encouraging us into actual action! As coaches, we listen to our clients using more than just our ears – what do we hear, see/observe, sense or feel? When we listen with our whole self, we can detect the subtle nuances in our client’s communication and notice when there is a dissonance between their words and their gestures.
6.1: Coach’s questions and observations are customized by using what the coach has learned about who the client is or the client’s situation.
No two coaching conversations are the same and the degree of differentiation comes down to how closely we choose to listen. We can observe details about our client (the who), and their situation (the what), and take the conversation to a deeper level by sharing these observations. For example, a client’s situation may be that they stepped in and completed a project for a colleague who was experiencing some personal challenges. From this, we can observe who the client is: a kind, considerate and empathetic person to their colleague.
As coaches, we all love questions, so remember that our clients give us the words to use in our questions, when we listen very closely. To customise your questions for your client, incorporate their words in your questions or shared observations, so you are both using the same vocabulary for consistency and clarity throughout the conversation.
6.2: Coach inquires about or explores the words the client uses.
Often, the few notes I take during a session are the key words that a client has emphasised through repetition, pauses or their tone while speaking. Using the same words as your client, so they are correct and accurate, keeps you on the same page during the conversation.
To further explore with a client, ask: “What is the significance, or meaning of [that word]?” This will deepen their awareness and support them to make their own connections. Also watch out for any disconnect you notice when a client’s words don’t match their body language or movements. Share what you notice, then invite the client to comment or reflect.
6.3: Coach inquires about or explores the client’s emotions.
When clients feel a strong sense of trust and safety, they are more confident to share and explore their emotions. You are supporting your client to go deeper and to be more in the moment. A recent client of mine admitted to doing everything possible to distract herself from feeling anxious. I asked her what would happen if she just sat with this painful emotion. She replied that she did not know how to just ‘sit’ in that space, as her mind would take over, trying to analyse and problem solve her issues. Firstly, I asked her to slowly rub both hands together for her to experience a strong physical movement to focus on. Then, she closed her eyes as I guided her through a visualisation exercise. Sometimes, a client finds it difficult to sit still. Adding in some small, physical movement can enable them to focus on just observing their emotions. Some clients may find it helpful to imagine themselves in a calming place, like in a park, among colourful trees. Finding ways that work for each individual is extremely helpful for them.
6.4: Coach explores the client’s energy shifts, nonverbal cues or other behaviours.
Another role as a coach can be holding a mirror, metaphorically, for our client. What can encompass these nonverbal gestures and movements? I was a little unsure of what you meant by encompass in this context. Could it be: “What might be behind these nonverbal gestures and movements? Take special notice of your client’s changes in energy, or adjustments in body language. This can include: facial expressions, altering eye contact or gaze, tapping, fidgeting, or changes in their posture. To demonstrate this, you must share your observation with the client AND invite the client to explore.
Can you tell me more?
What is happening for you?
What is coming up for you?
6.5: Coach inquires about or explores how the client currently perceives themself or their world.
As you listen, a good starting point for exploring with a client is identifying their current reality. Take time to help the client get a very clear picture of what life is like for them at the present moment. Then, use a tool or strategy to guide the client to look into their desired future. One common tool used in this case is visualisation. By setting a well-defined path with a clear beginning point and finishing place, both you and your client will know the intended direction of your coaching conversation. As your client has a unique way of viewing themself and their world, you as their coach need to listen and respond to them with curiosity. This will allow you to discover their perceptions and learn more about their situation.
6.6: Coach allows the client to complete speaking without interrupting unless there is a stated coaching purpose to do so.
As coaches, we know it’s important to let our clients speak without interruption. However, it can be necessary and purposeful in certain contexts. Some examples include: when the client is talking in circles, repeating what they are saying, or sharing a long story. Your interruption may simply be to clarify with the client that you are both still on track. Or, it may be to check that following a certain line of enquiry is the best use of time during the coaching session. In the case of a talkative client, you may intentionally gain prior permission to interrupt them if you deem it necessary.
6.7: Coach succinctly reflects or summarizes what the client communicated to ensure the client’s clarity and understanding.
I’m going to be brief here! The key word is ‘succinct.’ Be discerning when choosing what to summarise. You may wish to consider if your summary will add to the conversation and move it forward, or if it will stifle progress. Try to bring something new into your summary that will take the conversation deeper. If your client is sharing they have a very busy day attending to everyone’s needs, you may reply that you sense they are being pulled in different directions as others make demands on their time.
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