There’s been a that has come up for me consistently the last couple of days: Listen. Not “listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed” kind of listen, but “Listen, and gentle be present”–a Weston Priory hymn we used to sing in choir when I was young. The other listen rumbling in my head is a book I’m using to prep for a class I’m teaching at a local college: Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach. Both the book and the hymn have reminded me about how I’ve learned in my adult life to listen differently.
Back in 2006 I trained for certification as a Certified Empowerment Coach, a.k.a. life coach, with IPEC. The training was pretty intense hours and hours of practice over the phone with peer coaches, more hours with a master coach, three, 3-day weekends of course work, readings, writings, and teleconferences. One of the skills that was driven home throughout was the listening! You have to listen differently in order to be an effective life coach.
In my group there were about 7 people and we had to partner twice over the course of the months of training, to do peer coaching over the phone. When you coach over the phone you really have to listen differently–it was called Level 3 Listening or listening between the lines. On the phone there is no body language to read, no leaning in to encourage more, no head nodding to acknowledge what you’ve heard. Now, I’m typically one of those people who is very good at listening to other people but not always good at being listened to; in other words I’m more comfortable being the helper not the helpee.
Bonnie and Laurie, the two peer coaches who were assigned to listen to me during our training were amazing. They practiced all the appropriate skills that appeared in our training manual and that we had practiced on the long weekends of in-person training. They each got me to talk about particular challenges or issues I was wanting to improve or change in my life. They “acknowledged and validated” brilliantly; helped me to set SMART goals, and in their listening made me a better listener.
Although I’ve not made a big business of life coaching, I use those skills every day in my job. My coaching manual sits on the shelf in my office and I refer to it fairly often. I think about Bonnie and Laurie whenever I open that 4-inch, three-ring binder and smile. I’m grateful for their wisdom and skill as coaches and their compassion as human beings. Thanks, Bonnie and Laurie!