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Aneesh Alidina

Aneesh Alidina

Aneesh Alidina

Read more from Aneesh Alidina

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Deep listening mastery for coaching success


In a busy city, a wise mentor excelled at listening. Colleagues were drawn to the mentor, as they felt heard and valued. Through this simple act, bonds deepened, ideas blossomed, and teamwork flourished. What was the secret? The potency of listening. A skill that can transform the workplace and demonstrates that understanding and connection begin with ears attentive to others.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of strong relationships, personal growth, and professional success. At the heart of effective communication lies the ability to listen actively and wholeheartedly. Conscious listening, also known as whole listening, is a skill that can be cultivated through practice and dedication, and it has the power to transform our interactions with others.

Research on Listening

Listening research has shown that many people are poor listeners. A study by Adler, R. et al. (2001) found that most people spend up to 80% of their waking time involved in some form of communication, but only about 45% of that time is spent listening. Furthermore, the study found that people only really hear about 25% to 50% of what is said to them.

Another study by the International Listening Association (ILA) found that the average person spends only 2 ½ to 5 minutes of a 10-minute conversation actually listening to the other person. The rest of the time is spent thinking about what they want to say next, formulating judgments, or simply being distracted by their own thoughts.

These studies highlight the importance of developing effective listening skills. Whole listening is a powerful way to improve our listening abilities and enhance our communication with others.

Levels of Listening

Our ability to listen effectively can be categorised into three levels:

1. Internal Listening: This is the most common form of listening, where we are primarily focused on our own thoughts and reactions to what the speaker is saying. We may be comparing their experiences to our own, formulating judgments, or planning our response.

In a coaching situation, here’s what might be going on in your mind while the client is speaking:

“Oh yeah, I’ve had that feeling or problem before.”

“My friend had that same issue, I know what you mean.”

2. Concentrated Listening: In concentrated listening, we shift our attention solely to the speaker, filtering out distractions and giving their words our undivided focus. This can be an effective approach for absorbing specific information or understanding intricate details. This form of listening can sometimes feel exhausting.

Here’s an example of this form of listening:

Imagine two friends enjoying a coffee at a cafe. They’re so deeply engrossed in the conversation that they don’t realise it’s raining outside, the cafe is closing, and all the other customers have left the cafe. The chairs have been put away and the staff are waiting to close the shop and go home.

3. Deep or Whole Listening: This is the highest level of listening, where we expand our awareness beyond the speaker's words to encompass their emotions, body language, and the surrounding environment. It's about creating a connection with the speaker and embracing it on a holistic level. There’s It can be likened to a more flowing state of listening awareness, rather than being concentrated on one thing.

Here are some ways you may benefit from whole-listening

  • Enhanced Understanding: Whole listening allows us to grasp the speaker's underlying message, emotions, and intentions, leading to a deeper understanding of their perspective.
  • Stronger Relationships: When we listen wholeheartedly, we build trust and rapport with others, fostering stronger and more meaningful relationships.
  • Effective Communication: Whole listening promotes active listening, where we focus on the speaker's message rather than formulating our response, leading to more effective communication and conflict resolution.
  • Personal Growth: Whole listening can cultivate self-awareness and empathy, enabling us to reflect on our own thoughts and emotions while understanding the perspectives of others.

Cultivating Whole Listening

Whole listening is a skill that can be developed through consistent practice and being in the moment. Here are some tips to cultivate this powerful form of listening:

  • Practice Being in the Moment: Enhance your present-moment awareness and reduce distractions. This can be easier said than done, but with regular practice this can be achieved.
  • Suspend Judgments: Approach conversations with an open mind, suspending your judgments and biases. Be aware if you have a habit of jumping to conclusions and when you’re being judgemental.
  • Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues: Observe the speaker's body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice for clues to their emotions and intentions. Reading non-verbal cues is often more of an art than a science.
  • Be an Active Listener: Engage with the speaker, nodding, making eye contact, and asking clarifying questions. 
  • Extend the Listening Beyond the Conversation: Reflect on the conversation after it ends, considering the speaker's message and how it resonates with you.

Where to go from here

Whole listening is a transformative skill that can enrich our lives and strengthen our connections with others. As we cultivate this ability, we become more effective communicators, empathetic listeners, and compassionate individuals. By embracing whole listening, we open ourselves to a world of deeper understanding, authentic connection, and personal growth

Author Profile Picture
Aneesh Alidina

Aneesh Alidina

Read more from Aneesh Alidina

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