The Active Listening
The importance of active listening within the coaching relationship
Nature, it is said, has given each of us two ears but one language, because we are required to listen more than to speak
Plutarch (46-120 AD)
Listening is in fact a practice that is lost in the “mists of time”: in fact it has its origins in remote periods of history; already in ancient Greece, to all those who went to Delphi to question the oracle, he replied with the following warning:
I warn you, whoever you are. Oh, you who wish to probe the Arcana of Nature, if you cannot find within yourself what you are looking for you will not even be able to find it outside. If you ignore the wonders in your home, how do you claim to find other wonders? The treasure of the Gods is hidden in you.
Oh, man, know yourself and you will know the universe of the Gods “
This warning was a clear and explicit invitation to “question oneself”, starting an introspective search, aimed at bringing out the answers to one’s questions.
Even the Greek philosopher Socrates wisely used the art of “maieutics”, to make his pupils “give birth” to ideas: he believed that no one possessed the truth and that, therefore, virtue could not be taught.
Before going into the specific in-depth study of the aspects related to the relevance of active listening within the relationship that is established between the “Coach” and his client (“Coachee”), it is useful to recall the definition of “Coaching” as ” method of development of personal potential, based on the assumption of the uniqueness of each individual and aimed at growth, change, performance improvement and the achievement of particularly challenging objectives “.
What is meant by active listening
Let’s clarify the difference between the word “hear” and “listen”.
While the term “hearing” refers to a “non-voluntary” physical action linked to the activation of the hearing organ (“we cannot not hear”), “listening” is a voluntary act that implies attention and it presupposes an education (“I have to listen to myself” to understand the meaning of communication)
Active listening is not simply “listening”, but a combination of what the other is saying (content of the message) associated with active involvement: it means knowing how to use empathy to get in tune with the other .
The effective listening methods for the Coach
To be “effective”, active listening must be:
1. empathetic: in order to create a relationship of trust and collaboration;
2. reactive: aimed at sending feedback to the interlocutor;
3. selective: with the aim of helping the other to focus on some concepts.
Active listening and ability to formulate “quality questions”
In order for a Coaching relationship to develop effectively through the technique of questions, these must possess the following characteristics.
In the first place, the questions formulated in an “open” manner are to be preferred, ie those that allow “greater freedom of action” to the interlocutor, compared to those posed in a “closed” manner, which deeply bind him in his answers.
In fact, open questions have the advantage of generating in the Coachee a greater sense of responsibility and awareness and begin with the words “what, how, who, when, how much, etc.”, which usually aim to quantify or collect elements.