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Active Listening: Two Phases, One Purpose

“What” “How” and “Why?” Three questions which need to be answered in order to implement a new strategy or skill in our lives. In my previous articles, I answered the “What?” and “Why?” concerning active listening. Today we are going to focus on the how. How exactly do we actively listen?

Active listening has two phases: taking in data and energy and then using language that reflects that we have indeed listened.

Phase One

The first phase occurs when we listen to clients in our attempt to take in both the data and energy coming from them. In active listening we let go of figuring out “the problem” and instead focus on what the clients is saying and how they are articulating their thoughts.

We become aware of (hear) the information they are sharing, while we also pay attention to the feelings and energy they are emanating. As a result of sensing their feelings and processing their words, we are impacted; and as a result, we then realize and/or feel something.

Phase Two

The second phase of listening is how we respond based on what we sense or realize. What we say next has an impact on our clients and the relationship. What we say and how we say it— our listening language—lets clients know how well we understand them. For example, we can say to the client, “I’m hearing that you are really working hard at this relationship, and it is frustrating for you that your partner does not appear to be working as hard as you are. Is that right?”

Coaches facilitate conversations that are predicated on well-founded listening. Each choice you make in the coaching conversation—be it to make an observation, ask a question, or acknowledge your client—can take your conversation and relationship down a different path. Each choice, each coaching move, is predicated on the quality of your listening.

The use of listening language and active, constructive responding is at the heart of effective coaching and creates a space for the coach to profoundly understand the client’s thinking, feelings and energy. This deep level of communication elevates the trust between coach and client.

Clearly a well-executed phase two is contingent on a well-executed phase one. If we were not fully present during phase one and did not profoundly listen, it will be impossible to reflect back what we heard well. Active listening hinges on our ability to be fully present in the moment. By being fully present we create a space to hear the client—and our intuition, which is key in guiding the conversation forward.

In my next article, I am going to discuss various impediments to active listening that prevent us from listening well.

Until then, remember:

Being listened to is so close to being loved, that most people don’t know the difference.

Professor David Augsberger

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