Forget active listening and just listen!

So one of the ideas that I have been reflecting on lately is whether the concept of active listening has become out dated!  Yes, I know it’s a bit controversial! But before all great coaches before me rise up and call for me to hand in my qualifications and International Coach Federation credentials, let me just explain….

When we are coaching managers in the use of the GROW model, just the basic questions, we ask them to ‘stay out of the space’, ‘just ask the question’ and to ‘listen for the answer’ and this has been bundled under the heading of ‘active listening’.

But I think that’s the problem – rather than just staying out of the space and listening, they are ACTIVE.  By active I mean, thinking about the next question, thinking about the solution, waiting for the person to stop talking so that they can jump in with the solution. Even when they are doing their best to ‘hold their tongue’ I can see them jiggling in their seat, eyes turned upward or rigorous nodding as if to say ‘yes, yes…now have you tried this?’

There is way too much ACTIVITY going on in their brains and bodies that makes me think that they are not actually listening.

Then of course, bless them, they confess in our debriefs about how hard it was to just listen and to not jump in with the answer.

It’s a really valuable lesson that many of us, including me, yes that’s right, had to learn.  Not to be active.  Just to truly listen.

If you’ve read the chapter in Bring Out Their Best, you will have read that when I started coaching I thought I was a great listener.  Only to find out that in actual fact that wasn’t really true.  So over the years I have focused on developing my listening skills and in my MCC (Master Credentialled Coach) learning, my mentor is focusing on having me listen ‘for the whole of the person’.  Now that’s a whole new ball game and worthy of a new article when the time comes.

Enjoy your coaching!