We hear the word ‘listening’ in various walks of life.

Businesses say “we are listening to our customers”; politicians say “we are listening to the people”; parents say “we are listening to our children”.

The question I would put to you is: Are we listening but not hearing?

Coaching practice identifies listening at 3 different levels.

Level 1 – We listen to our own needs and not the needs of others.

For example, a client is having issues with their work/life balance and explain the problem. Instead of empathising with their problem, the coach talks about their own issues and paying attention to their own opinions, thus driving their own agenda. This is not helping the client find their own solution to their concerns.

Level 2 – We listen and understand the others persons needs and requirements.

At this level and in comparison to Level 1 the coach is actually listening to their work/life balance dilemma and empathising with their situation, at the same time encouraging the client to look for options to resolve their problem, as well as supporting them in achieving their goals.

Level 3- Listening on a truly global scale and fully understanding the needs and requirements of the person you are coaching.

When we listen at Level 3 we are able to support clients work/life balance dilemma, by mirroring and reflecting what goals and aspirations they wish to achieve in their life. This is listening not just to the words but sensing the energy and emotion that the client is emitting including what is spoken and unspoken.

In coaching conversations the coach will constantly switch from Level 2 to Level 3, with the likelihood that they will slip into Level 1 occasionally. This is where the coach has the self-awareness to revert back to Levels 2 or 3 as quickly as possible.

To demonstrate to the client that we are listening we should be able to:

  • Articulate what the client is trying to explain and if necessary challenge (without been contradictory) what they are looking to achieve as it may not be a workable solution to their work/life balance
  • Clarifying with a client when they are tending to ramble on and bringing them back on track as to what they wish to achieve in their work and life
  • Use Metaphors such as “are you all at sea” rather than “are you confused” as they can see it as a picture in their mind if they are trying to resolve the concerns they have.

I must admit that I struggle to achieve level 3 from time to time. My wife would tell me that I’m at Level 1 (or below) in listening, particularly when she starts a conversation when I’m watching football on the TV or when I’m reading.

The next time you are with someone check with yourself if you listened at Levels 2 or 3. Conversely, check if that person has listened to you.

Thank you for listening!

Bernard O’Keeffe is a Career Coach, based in London. Bernie says: “The experience in life’s journey has been a rewarding one. That’s why I want to coach people so as their journey will take them on the road to professional and personal success and happiness.”


Read more blogs from Bernie: Making the most of your talent