Authentic listening requires intentional, active, uninterrupted attention. Distractions are a common hindrance to listening well, and they interfere with our desire to communicate and/or coach with care, curiosity, and connection.
I have been very challenged and convicted by all I am learning in my M.A. Counseling and Coaching class. We spent weeks studying listening skills, and I realize how much I still have to learn and improve.
One of the books we are reading is: Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Christian Coach by Tony Stoltzfus. I highly recommend it.
This is one of the listening self-evaluations from the chapter on distractions. When I read through these statements, I saw many ways I could improve my listening. I think you might find it helpful also. Reflect on a recent past conversation or coaching appointment you had. Answer the questions, adding or subtracting points as appropriate.
Let me know how you did!
-1 Your e-mail or IM program was open in front of you.
-1 Your to-do list was sitting out in front of you where you could read it.
-5 You did e-mail, IM or work on other projects while you were talking/coaching.
-1 You were sitting at your main work desk.
-1 You could hear a noticeable amount of background noise (others talking, a phone ringing, TV, etc).
-2 Your door was open, the place you were coaching in has no door, or you were in a public place.
-2 You finished another meeting, project or deadline within 10 minutes before the appointment.
-2 You rushed in or worked on other tasks right up to the moment the appointment/conversation started.
-2 There is a fair amount of stress and conflict in your life, or you are emotionally needy.
-1 You were hungry, thirsty, tired or otherwise in a state of physical discomfort.
+1 You organized your notes/resources for this person/client and kept them easily accessible.
+3 You took at least 10 minutes before this appointment to get centered and review your notes/materials.
+2 You’ve made a serious personal commitment to be all there while you were coaching/talking.
+3 Your desk, screen, and or table/desk were clear, or you had a separate place to talk/coach away from daily work.
+1 You had a phone headset. (If the conversation took place by phone.)
+1 You had a comfortable environment to talk/coach in (correct temperature, good chair, etc.).
+1 You prayed for this person/client this week.
+3 You didn’t have any calls, walk-ins or interruptions while you talked/coached.
+2 You scheduled your appointment at a time of day when you are alert and well rested.
+1 Your connection was clear and totally reliable. You aren’t using a cell phone or voice chat.
Distraction + Supportive = ________ Final Total
(**If your final score is negative, may want to change your environment. If you are coaching professionally, the bar should be higher: if your score is less than +7, you may want to make some changes to improve your listening environment.)
Do distractions affect your ability to listen well? What could you change?
Stoltzfus, Tony (2005). Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Christian Coach (Kindle Locations 2662-2685).