This is the first module of a 4 part series titled “Deep Listening: Foundational Skills for a Successful Coaching Practice”. It is offered to you free here today. The audio was recorded live with participants like you asking their questions and getting coached. I hope you enjoy it!
The full 4-part series gives a complete introduction to the most powerful set of coaching tools I use. You can purchase it as a self-study course or (even more effective) use it as an adjunct to one-on-one coaching and mentoring. Enjoy the preview!
Right click on the link below and choose ‘save link as’ to download it to your computer.
Deep_Listening_Week_ 1_ April
Mindfulness and Compassion are the foundations upon which all your other coaching skills rest.
Story: For more than 15 years I studied personal growth and transformation mainly through yoga and meditation. Throughout all of that time and study I was often unhappy and my body hurt most of the time.
One evening in 2011, I was with a new friend talking and cuddling. I voiced that I noticed tension in my body particularly in my hip flexors. He asked if that was a familiar feeling and encouraged me to welcome the tension.
Welcome it? I’d tried to get rid of it for 15 years. But, OK, I’ll try just about anything so I welcomed it.
With his guidance I was with the tension without trying to fix it or change it. Then I talked to it. The tension in my hip flexors told me that it was armor, like the shell of a turtle. Its job was to protect me from being hurt, from being too vulnerable. I was flabbergasted. Who knew? This tension was actually offering me a service.
The miraculous shift that happened that night was not that I never had tension in my hips again, it was that my relationship to the tension, to my own body, and to healing all transformed. Compassion, parts, and listening all clicked within me to say YES! Turns out this new friend was doing a variation of Inner Empathy with me. I’ve since spent more than 600 hours studying Inner Empathy and coaching clients.
I’m sharing this story not only to make myself more human to you but to show the importance of the main tools we’ll be using in this course.
Mindfulness – I had to notice what was going on for me. The level of awareness of noticing is important. Many things that will be important for you as a coach (to hear your own intuition and your own biases/triggers) is mindfulness. The more you can help your clients be mindful, the more they will become aware of what’s happening in a given moment both within themselves and externally. From this comes awareness of their own power to create what they want and what they’ve got (self-responsibility).
Honesty or Radical Honesty – Telling the truth. Valuing my experience enough to share it. Trusting myself, the other person, the tools we’re using, and whatever else enough to be vulnerably and honest. Honesty takes and increases both courage and intimacy. It is a vulnerable act. Many of us have been taught not to be vulnerable and that vulnerability is weakness. Being vulnerable yourself and helping your clients trust you both increase their chances of being honest and vulnerable. Both are essential for any real change to take place.
Parts work – Welcoming in the tension as a part of me that I could talk to. Instead of “I’m tense.” The words became “A part of me is tense” and I could talk to that part and hear what it needed, how it was feeling, what it’s job was, and what it wanted.
Are you worried right now about remembering these different tools? Don’t be. There is one that underlies all the others. Compassionate presence is the single most useful thing you can do to support yourself or support others. Theory and tools are about 20%. Compassionate listening is about 80%.
Optional Exercise: What are the qualities of compassion? How do you react, feel, and think when you are listening compassionately?
Many of your clients will resist the idea of compassion. “If I’m nice to myself, doesn’t that just reinforce my bad behavior?” they might ask. They instead believe that change comes through beating themselves up. If they are coming for coaching, the obviously think they can do something good with their behavior, but be careful. There is a voice often called ‘gremlin’ or ‘inner critic’ that says “I’m not good enough the way I am. Something about me is bad and has to change.” If that voice just shifts to thinking a part is bad and has to change, change will still be slow, frustrating, and ineffective. So what to do? Welcome in the voice of the critic. Give it time, attention, listening room (in the spirit of inner empathy where to listen deeply and reflect is not to agree or disagree but to be with what’s happening).
Actually shame, blame, judgment, belittlement, or putdowns do not make lasting behavior changes. At least not in the directions we want people to change. They do not produce better, more organized, more talented, more successful people. These strategies are likely to lead to pain and suffering for both the one shaming and the one being shamed. The voice of shame can also become internalized and starts to sound like a lot of judgments. (I’m not good enough, I’m lazy, I just need to try harder) and wondering “Why can’t I get that done? Why can’t I complete a project?” (asking smarter questions is a better use of the brain’s power – Do I value completing this project? What do I need to do to complete this project? If I had exactly the help I need to complete this project, what help would I have?)
Optional Exercise: What judgments do you have about yourself?
Most of the trouble comes from arguing with reality. When we argue with reality we lose but only 100% of the time (Byron Katie).
When I believe something is wrong and ‘shouldn’t be’ then I waste energy getting angry at it, shaming myself, shaming others, trying to change someone, arguing, lying, trying to convince myself that I don’t care or it’s OK or not looking at it. Keeping the beach balls submerged in the swimming pool takes a lot of energy.
The antidote? Radical Honesty and Embracing what is “Let it in. Let it through.” Tell the truth. The truth changes things.