The key to effective coaching is to listen and reflect back to people the important truths in their story they might otherwise miss. In order to do this, you've got to listen at a Level II and Level III.
Level I listening is, simply, listening through your own lens.
It includes listening to your own thoughts, interpretations, and emotions related to another's story and projecting those on the person you are listening to. It sounds like:
- "I can totally relate. Once, a few years back, I..."
- "I know what you mean. I've felt that too. Awhile ago I..."
Level I may sound like empathy, but it's really digesting someone else's story through your own experience. The center of this kind of listening is you.
Level II listening is investing in the other's experience, making them the center of the universe.
It's listening to how they feel, what their interpretations are of their own experiences, and mirroring that back to the person you're listening to. It sounds like:
- "That sounds really difficult. How did you feel when that happened?"
- "It sounds like you were pretty discouraged..."
- "What do you think that meant?"
- "I hear you saying that this experiences was more eye-opening than anything..."
Level II listening is all about the other.
Level III listening is global listening.
It includes listening for everything that's not being said. You use your senses to seek out and identify the energy in the room and what's happening at a meta-level. In this type of listening, you and the individual stand side-by-side, "above" the room, and analyze everything in the universe that's intangible but there. It sounds like:
- "I hear you saying that was hard. I also noticed that the energy shifted when you talked about that..."
- "You mentioned you're excited but your mood shifted when you started talking about it..."
- "What you're saying makes sense, but I also remember awhile ago that you said you wanted to change your focus. This feels different than what you said back then..."
Great coaches live in Levels II and III.
Want to become a better listener? Try these two activities:
1. In the next conversation you have TODAY, listen at Level II by paying attention to the words the other person says and reflect back to them what you hear them saying. For example:
You: "How did your class go?"
Them: "It was ok."
You: "Why just ok? You don't seem excited about it."
Them: "Yeah. This activity I planned fell totally flat and three kids in the back were disengaged."
You: "What do you think caused it? What was different?"
Them: "I think that...blah blah blah..."
Listening at Level II means walking the other person through their own experience and reflecting back what you hear.
2. Observe Level III. In your next team meeting, lunch or bus duty, or check-in, pay attention to what's happening globally.
Make note of the moods you observe, the non-verbals, the emotions people project into the world, and what's not being said. Want to do this at ninja-level? Have someone else do this with you and compare your notes afterward. The best way to build your Level III listening is through deliberate practice.
Want to learn more? Check out Co-Active Coaching, a pretty solid read about coaching like a boss.
Want to be trained in coaching? Let's talk. I regularly train individuals one-on-one and in large-group settings to be stronger coaches.