Active listening & impactful conversations

How do conversations become impactful? In any interaction, it is often assumed that listening alone suffices. Some may use the term “critical listening” to justify how just paying undivided attention is enough to gain a grip over what is spoken or conveyed. However, what makes any conversation more than just an oral communication is “Active listening”.

Active listening is listening with all the senses. Rather than listening to just reply/respond, listening with one’s ears, eyes and heart shows empathy, trust, and offers the other party a safe space. A safe space to be heard, to be understood and to be respected.

Active listening is one of the core competencies required for a coach. In fact, active listening is the bed rock of every coaching conversation. It is active listening which makes coaching a creative partnership filled with empathy and trust. International coaching federation (ICF) defines active listening as the ability to focus on what the client is saying, and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression.

As a practicing coach, every coaching conversation serves as an invaluable learning experience. Coaching has enabled me to become a more empathetic listener in every other conversation. This is one of the many examples of how coaching can impact the quality of every other conversation that one may have. I am very much a work-in-progress. But i am inspired to observe how coaching pervades the quality of day-to-day conversations.

Few pointers which can make conversations become impactful:

  • An imaginary veil can be created in one’s head before any conversation. This veil helps steer clear of any thoughts/emotions that may come in the way of the conversation. A simple tip would be doing a focused/deep breathing. This helps in adopting the “blank slate” approach.
  • Being present is the key. This is a state of being “in the moment” and listening to everything that the other person is saying and “not saying”. This means listening with one’s eyes, ears and heart.
  • Avoiding interruptions as far as possible and holding back any desire to express oneself right in the middle of the conversation.
  • Apart from listening to the other person and paying complete attention, a meaningful silence also helps. Holding the space and allowing a few seconds of silence after the other person has spoken can pave way for powerful responses & questions. This would be entirely based on active listening.
  • Adding another layer to the imaginary veil. This layer is to strongly assimilate the belief that we do not get attached to or affected by what the other person is saying. This also helps in having a non-judgemental mindset and belief that the other person knows what he/she is saying.
  • As much as possible, using the same words/vocabulary as that of the person who is speaking. This shows not just active listening but also improves the quality of the conversation as these are the terms which may strongly resonate with the speaker and builds trust.
  • Avoid offering advice/suggestion unless asked for. This not only deepens the other person’s trust but also makes him/her truly believe that the overarching tone of the interaction is not patronizing but an equal space to generate ideas/outcomes.

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