I recently completed a cross-country trip solo...sort of. I brought my friend Woody. On those long stretches through New Mexico and Texas and Oklahoma, I would occasionally open up to Woody about what I was thinking or feeling about things. He never interrupted. He didn't tell me what I should do. He just listened. I feel like he’s halfway to becoming a life coach himself, and he doesn’t even have a brain.
One of the most effective things I can do as a coach is listen. Listen without judging, without changing the subject, and without waiting to throw my own two cents in. Yes, I have tools and exercises and techniques to help my clients visualize and move forward, but a majority of what I do is listening.
It seems simple, but if it were, everyone would be doing more of it.
Why is listening so hard? Because when we care about someone and we see them struggling, it’s our instinct to help them. To fix their problem. To tell them how to fix their problem. We “should” on them.
“You should do this.”
“You should go there.”
“You should stop that.”
“You should try these.”
This has a tendency to backfire. When people do this to me, I come up with a million excuses for why their idea won’t work for me, and eventually I shut down. At best, I’m no better than I was before the conversation, at worst I feel even more frustrated than I started out.
I believe most people don’t want to be fixed or told what’s wrong with them. They want someone to have every faith that they can figure it out. They want someone that will listen to what they asking for instead of forcing unsolicited help and advice on them.
It's hard for many people not to jump in with their own two cents, but try it.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”