Effective listening is essential to my work as a coach: I think it’s pretty key to my role as a wife, daughter, sister and friend too. I’m always on the look out (or should that be ‘I’m always listening out for’?) anything that can help me gain better listening skills and will help me pass on those skills to the people I coach or train.
In a recent session with Abi, she was telling me of her desire to make a success of her new role as a manager. I asked her to describe to me her best ever boss and this is the first thing she said:
‘When I needed to talk to him, he made me feel like I was a priority to him. If he hadn’t got time to listen to me properly right then, he would tell me and we’d arrange a time to talk when he could give me his full attention.’
When I heard that, I shared with Abi a quote I’d noted down once –
‘Being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.’ David Augsburger
‘That’s it,’ she smiled, ‘I wouldn’t go as far as to say that my boss loved me, but he certainly made me feel like I mattered to him and that made a huge difference.’
Abi decided that she wanted to focus the rest of her session on improving her listening skills and so I took her through the SIER formula (as described in Effective Listening: Key to Your Success by Barker, Steil & Watson).
Great listening is about more than just the words. What else is happening? Notice the body language, tone and volume of the speaker’s voice, their facial expressions, pauses, sighs etc.
When we listen, it’s essential that we ensure that we’ve understood and correctly interpreted the verbal and non-verbal elements of the conversation. The interpreting stage is all about summarising, checking, clarifying, and encouraging the speaker to elaborate further.
Effective listening means setting aside any tendency to jump to an immediate conclusion or be judgemental. Having the ability to hear the speaker out and then pausing to consider before offering your thoughts is key to the evaluating stage.
In most cases, the speaker has come to talk to you because they’re looking for something from you: advice, help, acknowledgement, or maybe validation. The final stage of the SIER formula is to respond appropriately.
Abi is now using the SIER formula with her team: when I last spoke to her, she mentioned that she’s also been using it at home and it’s helped her to be more present with her children after a busy day at work.
Today’s pebble for you to ponder: would it make a difference to your colleagues, family and friends if you improved your listening skills?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like someone to listen to you and help you achieve the transformation you’re looking for, why not email me to see how we can work together?