Active Listening — How to Cultivate It and Why It’s More Important Than Ever!

In this episode, John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss why active listening is a core competency for life coaches, and how to sharpen your skills in this area.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching (formerly JRNI) founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

Active Listening for Life Coaches

With the rise of technology, active listening has become an increasingly rare art form. Tech-based communications have not only changed the way we perceive listening, but it has altered the way we receive messages as well.

As a life coach, active listening is one of the most important skills you can master. Why? Because people are hungry to be HEARD.

One of the first things we learn in life coach training is that our primary job is simply to “hold space.” As coaches, we establish the conditions that allow a client to access their inner wisdom and formulate answers for themselves. The coaching relationship is, in essence, the psychological “space'' where this work takes place.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening requires us to go back to the basics. It requires the listener to be fully present and understand all aspects of what is being said. The transformative power of coaching is activated when our clients have the life altering experience of being fully seen, held, believed in, and validated by another competent and trusted adult.

Using open-ended questions is an active listening technique that invites a client into a state of exploration. It’s what allows those deeper stories to emerge.

Consider questions that:

  • Establish trust 
  • Require a longer response
  • Allow clients to tell their stories

When in doubt, you can never go wrong with the simple but effective: “Tell me more.”

Coaching Presence

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching presence as an “ability to create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust.”

What does this look like in practice?

  1. Demonstrating respect for a client’s perceptions, learning style, and personal being.
  2. Providing ongoing support for new behaviors and actions, including those that involve risk taking and fear of failure.
  3. Asking permission to offer suggestions, a reframe of the situation, or to coach the client in areas that are sensitive or new for them.

Listening Without Judgment

Despite our best intentions, unconscious bias can sometimes interfere with our ability to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Bringing these issues to light in coach training and working with them compassionately allows us to more capably navigate a complex world.

As coaches, we work with clients on some of the most personal aspects of their lives. Along the way, our unconscious biases will - not may - impact how we hear, interpret and are ultimately able to hold space for our clients. This is why the ICF Code of Ethics repeatedly calls on coaches to engage in work to gain an understanding of unconscious bias and take proactive steps to dismantle it. As ethical practitioners, this is the standard we are all held to.

Rigorous self-reflection is part of our work as coaches. Doing the hard work of figuring out what we need to see, understand, un-do within ourselves, and collectively call in requires courage. This is also one of the paradoxes of coaching: we are a constant work in progress. We need not be perfect to coach - we come as we are and we are whole as we are. But one of our most important investments we can make as coaches is in our own personal growth.

Sounding Board

Holding space requires the coach to become a container. Your role is to create a benevolent emptiness that clients can fill in with their own resources. As a professional coach, you’re being asked to keep your own judgment, solutions, emotional responses, and new ideas at bay so that your clients can “walk around” and explore themselves within the space you are holding.

Oftentimes, the value of coaching is in the time that has been set aside for clients to let the “cloudiness” within them settle so that clarity and intuition can emerge. Active Listening is not about adding more things to the coaching conversation, or “performing” as a coach. It’s about allowing clients to experience their own genius so they can do what they do best – solve their own problems.

Ready to Become A Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our life coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

Lumia Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

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