When was the last time you listened to someone speak? I mean genuinely listen to what they said – without interrupting them, without distracting yourself whilst you relate to your own experiences.
Our mind is naturally always going to bounce from one thought to another… thinking how to respond, what we need to do when we get home or making judgements, rather than really listening to what people are saying.
Nearly a year ago, I read Girl Code by Cara Alwill Leyba, and was inspired to explore life coaching. When I was first contemplating the idea, I met up for birthday drinks with a friend and we talked about different challenges and ideas that we had for the rest of the year. My friend really listened to me as I spoke and made a few comments throughout our catch up that really inspired me to pursue becoming a coach and reassuring me that I could do it!
Initially my friend had no idea what that I was planning to do, but she let me talk uninterrupted and really let me think out loud about my new discoveries. As she sat there listening, she could see my excitement and observe the change in my tone and in turn, offered so much support to me and my new dream.
If she wasn’t so supportive, I may have been put off coaching, or thought I was dreaming too big.
We never know what people are thinking, feeling or experiencing. It is so easy to get caught up with our own challenges every day and not actively listen to what people around us are actually saying.
I am the first to put my hand up as someone who was usually more focused on telling my story next rather than actively listening, but this is now changing. Coaching has taught me to focus my mind so I can clearly listen and observe what is being said.
Listening to someone at a global level, where you observe their words, tones, body language, even what people are not saying. When you listen at this level you reap the benefit of building greater rapport and trust as the person speaking feels heard and understood.
If you are constantly interrupting people, or story topping them, you risk them removing themselves from the conversation. They may resist opening themselves up to you due to lack of trust and assurance that you will empathise with what they are saying.
It is crucial to let people have their say as they could be at a point where they can be easily influenced, or are having their own internal battles. From the opposite perspective, people may be listening to you at a deeper level. A comment that was intended as a throw away statement could be hurtful, especially if mentioned daily or by multiple people.
So, long story short… it’s important to take time out from our busy lives to stop and actively listen. To be kind and supportive, because you never know who is listening. You may even help someone make a big life changing decision!