1. A coach listens actively to clients, seeking to understand clients within the context of their lives, and to create a safe space for clients to share freely.
Empathetic listening is the core skill of coaching. It’s what a coach does each minute of every session. It’s a proactive activity, requiring the coach to actively imagine what it is like to be the client in the client’s life, in what the client is currently describing, as well as right now in this session. Such a stance in listening takes trusting your imagination, intuition, and natural curiosity to help you arrive at the next powerful question or direction to take the coaching session.
2. A coach generates questions from the client’s perspective, asking questions designed to elicit insights.
When you listen from such a perspective, it makes sense to ask questions from the viewpoint of your client. The first way a coach demonstrates this skill is by avoiding questions designed to get information, and instead asking questions designed to elicit insight. Information-based questions might look at what has worked in the past, or gather information that someone would need in order to make a recommendation (for example, a weekly schedule of current activities). Insight-based questions focus on what the client might not yet have considered.
“What is it like saying that out loud?”
“What do you hope to learn about yourself in the next week?”
“What do you want to say to yourself two months from now?”
3. A coach recognizes subtle shifts of energy, as well as patterns and themes in a client’s life.
The other way this skill shows up is in the degree to which a coach recognizes small shifts in a client’s perspective, energy, or emotion. When you listen from an empathetic perspective for extended lengths of time, you start to recognize changes and shifts in your client that even your client does not notice, or quickly dismisses.
By bringing awareness to the present moment and the shift that just happened, you help your client become more mindful, and raise awareness of certain patterns that are extremely useful to address.
Listening so closely makes clients feel seen and heard, and it creates a tremendously strong bond between a coach and a client. Such a strong relationship creates a safe space for clients to dig deep and explore areas that are hard to navigate successfully solo.
Empathetic listening and the recognition of such small shifts adds depth which provides tremendous value through coaching.