Is listening the most important communication strategy for coaches? Maybe.
Listening certainly is essential for effective coaching, but it is also essential for almost any meaningful communication. And, when we asked people from nine countries around the world to video record and watch their conversations, listening was the one strategy they identified that they most needed to improve. We have discovered that people are better able to improve their listening skills when they reflect on the internal and external dimensions of listening.
Internal Dimensions of Listening
The internal dimensions of listening are the dimensions that we use to to control our thinking in order to better understand our partners. In order to improve our listening, we need to become aware of our internal monologue and mentally prepare ourselves to make a commitment to hearing our conversation partners. Some important internal dimensions of listening include our ability to:
Maintain our focus
Notice our conversation partners and ourselves
Avoid making assumptions
Surface our mental models
Let go of the need to control our conversation partners
To be effective in our conversations, we need to communicate to our conversation partners that they have our full attention. Becoming aware of and improving our own internal dimensions of listening can be a great first step to ensuring that our partners feel heard.
External Dimensions of Listening
The external dimensions of listening are those that our coaching partners see and hear. It is our actions that communicate to our conversation partners that they have our full attention. Some important external dimensions of listening include our ability to:
Be aware of our nonverbal communication
Find a good balance between listening and taking notes
Refrain from interrupting
Our goal as listeners is to ensure that our words and bodies communicate that we have a deep interest in what our partners are communicating. If our listening is guided by curiosity and benevolence, most of the external dimensions of listening will follow naturally in all of our conversations.
As we deepen our commitment to improving our communication skills, it helps to have strategies to work on skills for listening. In this video, I share one simple strategy that will help anyone become a better listener.
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