What makes coaching so effective and precious? A coach offers you the most profound attention. A professional coach is fully present with you. This kind of deep listening creates magic. Out of it flow questions that prompt you to go deeper as you talk. It allows you to hear yourself. It allows you to think. It allows you to be authentically you and understand better who that is.
Plain presence allows you to come to terms with your wounding and start healing by talking it out. Listening with your heart and mind wide open is the most beautiful gift you can give to others. Especially, since in our day-to-day interactions deep listening has become so rare.
What happens more often than not is that when we are at the point of sharing something that’s important to us. But the person in front of us starts looking at their phones or answering a call. Or they quickly jump to offering advice, mainly to feel useful rather than to aid. Worse even, their need to talk kicks in and they interrupt our stream of thought by talking about how they think or feel about the subject. They might even start mentioning something totally out of context. The list of rather obnoxious behavior could go on.
The sad truth is that the basic human need to feel heard is satisfied so very rarely. What that leads to is frustration and all kinds of other unpleasant emotions and beliefs. It might lead to us feeling as though we are not worthy of being listened to, not to speak of being loved. Let’s face it. Our direct communication skills have become even more impoverished since the invention of smartphones.
I meet a lot of people who don’t like to meet friends in coffee shops, large gatherings or public places anymore because the feelings of emptiness and loneliness that result from shallow communication. It seems that many of us have retreated into our own four walls. Many of us have also created some sort of energetic walls around our hearts to avoid more wounding. The way out is to meet those friends you really care for in comfortable one-on-one settings, ignore your phones for a while and start really being there and listening to what arises.
When people think of giving, they usually think of material things, like giving a little gift or bringing along some flowers. Especially when the ride gets tough economically there is a widespread feeling that we can’t go and visit anybody empty-handed. However, much more important than the most delicious cookies you could bring is your readiness to really be there.
Presence might be an overused word in the self-discovery domain. So it’s worth mentioning what that means to me. It involves feeling comfortable in your own body and not thinking of having to be somewhere else or doing something else. It also means not being stuck in your own head, but taking in what your friend has to say without making judgments or jumping to conclusions. It also involves allowing silence and asking questions out of genuine interest. It involves taking time before you respond to what was said so that you add value to the topic and don’t change it.
It sounds simple. It actually is. And yet in the time of sensory overload and widespread stress we live in, it’s not an easy thing to do. You can cultivate your listening skills one meeting at the time just by checking in how aware you are of the person in front of you. It also helps to smile more often. Smiling frees your mind from obsessive thinking and is very pleasant for you and for the person in front of you. Another important factor is taking some time to sit in silence by yourself and listening to your own thoughts. Once you are comfortable with that, you can feel more comfortable to truly listen to those of others.
In her book Time to Think, Nancy Kline puts it very beautifully: “Giving good attention to people makes them more intelligent. Poor attention makes them stumble over their own words and seem stupid. Your attention, your listening is that important.”