As a coach, listening is arguably one of the most important skills for us to develop.
There are many styles of listening, but to become a better and truly masterful coach, empathic listening is a key skill for us to practice and embody in our coaching sessions so we can help our clients evolve to their highest potential.
Empathic listening involves truly putting yourself in someone’s shoes, and listening to their words, tone, and body language free of judgment and with an open heart.
When you practice empathic listening as a coach, you create a safe space for the person or client to express themselves fully, offering them the life-changing gift of being truly heard. And even more powerful? Feeling understood.
We’ve probably all been in a conversation with someone at some point where we have a sudden realization that our thoughts, opinions, and emotions have been so loud we can barely recall what they’ve been sharing.
Sometimes we hear the words, but we don't hear and truly see the person and their perspective, feelings, or experience.
Empathic listening is integral to becoming a masterful coach which is why it’s one of the International Coaching Federation’s (ICF) Core Competencies in accredited curriculums like ours at Coaching Evolved.
Here’s how to start developing your empathic listening skills today so you can up-level your coaching practice:
1. PUT YOUR OWN THOUGHTS, OPTIONS, AND EMOTIONS ASIDE
If a thought or concern of yours is surfacing before or during a session, you can say to yourself in your head, “Hey, I see you and now isn’t the time so I’ll come back to you later.”
As a coach, it’s your role to simply listen to what the client is saying, and hold space for their thoughts and feelings.
You can also implement an energy clearing ritual before your sessions, like our free Pre-Session Ritual — a guided 7-minute audio practice so you can set yourself up as a clear and grounded channel for your client in each session.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO NON-VERBAL CUES
This is so key! Often, there is so much being said beyond words.
Remain attentive to your client’s facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. These non-verbal cues can reveal more about how someone is feeling and where they are at in their process than the words they share.
3. VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS
We all long to feel more understood. Let the person or client know that their emotions are valid.
A validating statement could be, “Of course you feel that way,” or “Wow, that must have been difficult for you.”
4. REFLECT BACK WHAT YOU HEAR
This is a technique known as mirroring, which you’ll be familiar with if you’re a trained coach.
Mirroring involves repeating back to the person what you heard them say in your own words. This helps to clarify that you are truly listening, and also shows the person that their words and feelings matter to you.
5. AVOID DISTRACTION
Get off your phone and shut down any other distractions that would impact your ability to effectively listen.
As a coach, it’s important to be 100% present in all your sessions. The practice of presence can also support you in creating flourishing relationships in other areas of your life too.
When we listen with empathy, we’re able to create deeper connections that can have a profound ripple effect in the world. Bring the skill of empathic listening into your coaching sessions and personal relationships today, and witness the miraculous shifts that take place.
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