“To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.” – Alan Watts
I took a wellness coaching certification from Wellcoaches about 12 or 13 years ago. I had already been in the fitness industry for 25 years and, while I was curious about this newly emerging field, I didn’t actually expect to learn a great deal. To my surprise, one of the first things I learned was to “listen until you don’t exist.”
In the process of sitting down with a client, going over their medical health history, their goals, their challenges, etc, I would catch myself finishing their sentences. Sometimes this was when they hesitated, seeming to be stuck, and sometimes (more often than not) in my head because I “knew” where they were going with it. I would also find myself planning their program in my mind while they were still talking. Obviously, I was not fully listening. I had my own agenda and, no matter how well-intentioned, I was not giving the client my complete attention.
What’s the harm in “helping” them along with their thought process or getting a jump on planning, you might ask. If they hesitate, they could be looking for the right words or how (or if) to state something very sensitive. They could be telling you things with their eyes, body language, the strength (or lack thereof) of their voice, and if you jump in blurting out your assumption of what they are going to say, you could lose all of that information.
To truly understand a client’s story (or anyone’s story), you need to shut down your own mind, open your ears and eyes, and truly hear what they are saying. You will be amazed at how much you may have missed and how much stronger your connection with them will be.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey