By Brian Johnston, Master Coach, ANZCAL
As coaches we are practiced in the essential skills of building rapport with our clients through active listening and giving our full attention throughout the coaching session. Mastering the ‘art’ of active listening and giving our full attention requires us to create the appropriate environment to ensure we can minimise all possible distractions.
Stephen R. Covey offers an inspirational description of Empathic Listening. “Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretations, you’re dealing with reality inside another person’ s head and heart. You’re listening to understand. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul”.
How does one minimise “projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretations” during coaching sessions? No mean feat in my experience!
Attention Blocks, as I describe them, are part of normal human interaction and only become blocks to coaches when we take the attention away from our clients onto ourselves or unrelated matters. We all use a variety of attention “blocks”, sometimes we are consciously aware of them and sometimes we are not. The more aware we become of which blocks we use, when we use them, and with whom we use them, the more effective we become as coaches.
Below are some examples of the Attention Blocks we may use:
Advising: Why don’t you email her and tell her….
Interrupting: Preventing clients form finishing what they’re saying interrupts their flow and may affect their confidence to continue. Finishing the client’s sentence ‘for them’ can also be a block.
Comparing I was once in your position. My situation was actually worse…
Derailing You’re obviously stressed. Anyway, moving on to the session’s goal…..
Judging Isn’t that a waste of your time and quite frankly I wouldn’t do that?
Suggesting I’d suggest you meet up with her first and discuss….
Mind Reading What she’s thinking is….
Assuming I bet you’ve avoided meeting her because…..
Rehearsing Once he’s finished talking I’ll say….
Day Dreaming What have I got in for dinner tonight?
Identifying with I’ve been through that myself. I know exactly where you’re coming from.
Arguing No, no! Your information is wrong. That’s not what the regulations state.
Placating I’m sure he was only trying to help you. Don’t take it to heart.
Rescuing I know this is difficult for you so shall I contact her for you?
Here is an activity that can help you address your Attention Blocks and become an exceptional coach. (I’m making an assumption here that you may not already be an exceptional coach. One of my “blocks?)
Think of a particular male – with him I block by…
Think of a particular female – with her I block by…
Think of a particular child or young person – with her/him I block by…
Think of a particular client or colleague – with her/him I block by…
My most frequently used block is…
How might you minimise the use of this attention block and improve upon effective listening skills and ability to pay attention?
Until recently Brian Johnston worked for ten years at the University of Otago, Dunedin. For four years as a student counsellor within Student Health and for six years as the Personal Performance Coach within the Graduate Research School. He has Master Coach Certification with ANZCAL and gained his Diploma in Personal Performance Coaching in 2006 from the Coaching Academy, London graduating with Distinction. Brian is available through Skype for Executive Coaching, Life-Coaching and Coaching Supervision.
Tel: +64 (0)274 260 290