Essential Skills for Successful Coaching
Life coaching is a profession that is designed to offer guidance and boost confidence in individuals to help them make empowered decisions and reach their goals. The life coach must possess a variety of skills in order to help their client, such as good listening and communication skills, organization skills and the ability to offer guidance and direction.
Listen with Curiosity
Great listening skills are important for life coaching skills, but listening with curiosity goes deeper and portrays an actual interest in what the client is saying. Listening with curiosity is considered a vital tool in any coaching dialogue or team (coach and client) discussion. When we listen to other normally, there is usually a sense of impatient and lack of attention while we try to determine what we want to say or input into the conversation once the other person has stopped speaking. Sometimes we focus so much on what our answer will be that we do not give our full attention to the question in the first place. This thought process can hinder the dialogue or conversation between people and can negatively affect communication skills. Instead, whether the coach or the client, take a valid interest in the other person and devote your attention to them while they speak. Life coaches shouldn’t do all of the talking, but be able to pace the conversation and keep the client focused on the topic if needed. They will be more willing to open up if they feel you are genuinely curious in what they have to say.
Take in What You Hear
Listening with curiosity may be the first step in being a great life coach, but it doesn’t end there. The life coach or the client may be genuinely curious as to what the other person has to say and may want to be involved, but the information means nothing if it is not taken in when it was heard. The information should not – as the old saying goes – “Go in one ear and out the other”. The listener should not only be listening to the other person, but they should be taking in and registering what the other person is saying – actually hearing the words, recognizing gestures and feeling emotions. For life coaches, this includes being able to listen to the client and not only listening to the words they say, but what they are trying to get across with their words. The client may sound happy when they talk about their job, but then they change their tone when discussing their job duties. The life coach may need to pace and steer the conversation so they client does not wander off topic when talking.
Reflect with Accuracy
Reflective listening is a common tool used when two people are having a conversation. Reflective listening involves actively listening to a person and then reflecting or ‘mirroring’ back what you heard. This not only helps with obtaining clarity, but also shows the other person that you were listening and are hearing what they are saying. It also allows the other person to hear what was said to them and can portray to them what they are putting out there – and if it was what they meant to say or not. In life coaching, it is always important to clarify and reflect what the other person is saying because it is not uncommon to mishear or misunderstand what a person is trying to get across and derail any target or goal plan.
Methods of reflecting:
- Repeating words or phrases
Questioning for Exploration
No matter how well we listen or how well we reflect and mirror information, there are chances that something will be missed or unclear. That is why it is important to utilize asking questions and use them to further explore the conversation. The use of active listening and using questions further creates a more productive dialogue between the life coach and the client. Life coaches should use open ended questions with their client in order to draw out more structured answers other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. These types of questions allow the client to search within themselves and create a more thoughtful and personalized answers. Also, when the client is able to bring out these answers for themselves, they feel more empowered and confident about what they share and will be more willing to participate since they provided the answers themselves instead of blindly taking it from someone else. From these questions and answers, the life coach can better offer various forms of feedback as well as guidance and help with their development and growth.
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