While meeting with a new client the other day I noticed that I was listening to a “dump”. This is not that unusual in a first meeting/session. It’s about getting to know one another or more correctly, me as the coach getting to know the client. In first meetings I have found that clients feel they need to throw everything that they are feeling, or thinking about, into one long soliloquy.
And I let them.
- They obviously feel the need to do it and it’s their session.
- I actually learn something and often get some “nuggets” of information from the “dump”.
- I get a good sense of the communication “style” they use which helps me communicate better with them.
- There is an unspoken message being sent that going forward I will listen and not interrupt with my own story or interpretations.
- I believe it builds trust.
“The art of conversation lies in listening.” –Malcom Forbes
I recently had a very different experience, this time I was the potential client and I was supposedly interviewing a coach for myself. The coach had come recommended through a program that organized “coaching circles”. For those of you who may not be familiar with this, it is where you volunteer to coach someone and in turn another coach in the system coaches you. It’s sort of a barter system where coaches can access other coaches for free and get credit for coaching in return.
From the start it didn’t go well – not well at all. The “coach” basically took over the whole conversation. All I heard about was his “successes”, vast experience and how wonderful he was. I don’t believe he asked me more than one question. When I did make a comment about what I was looking for in a coach, he took that as permission to talk about his own journey into coaching. It was all about him. When I finally asked him why he was involved in the coaching circle he stated that it was just to promote himself, that he really wasn’t interested in actually coaching anyone.
“The word ‘Listen’ has the same number of letters as the word ‘Silent’.” – Alfred Brendel
Getting back to the meeting with my new client. After about 50 minutes of listening and asking very few clarifying questions, I stopped him and asked if I could recap what I had “heard” and was able to focus on one piece. I asked a couple of questions on that piece, which led to a significant aha moment for the client. This, I said to him, will be our starting point and scheduled our next session.
There is a great quote that says that we have two ears and one mouth. No need to say anything else…. Listen.
John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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