Recently I read an article on life coaching in the March 2013 issue of Elle magazine, Life Coaching, Better Than Therapy?. The writer, Bliss Broyard, participated in life coaching as part of her research for the article and found that it was a really positive experience that helped her in her hectic life to construct time frames and strategies that addressed being a wife, mother and journalist whilst maintaining sanity. There were, however, a couple of inaccuracies in the article that I feel prompted to put right.
The writer had interviewed a psychiatrist who stated that life coaches attempted to help people with deeper mental health issues and did not refer them to mental health professionals. Well, I don’t know about other coaches but my training with Momentum Life Coaching and Training, New Zealand, (an I.C.F., International Coach Federation, approved training) very specifically stated that if I felt that any client had deeper issues, either being stuck in the past or a mental health issue, I was to recommend they see a counsellor or health professional and to stop working with them immediately. So far I haven’t had to do this with any of my clients but if I did, I would certainly not entertain the notion that I could help them with these deeper mental health issues as I am simply not trained to do so. I would not hesitate in referring them on.
The other inaccuracy that Bliss stated was that if a life coach was not active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then don’t touch them. As if being active on social media these days gives anyone authenticity! Even a sociopath can learn how to be active on social media and to say that this type of promotion means that a life coach is good or not is very misleading. By all means do your research on a life coach that you are thinking of working with but do not dismiss them simply because they are only somewhat active, or not active at all, on social media sites. I offer a free 30 minute session to anyone to see if life coaching is for them and if we, as coach and client, are a good match. If during that time I felt that the prospective client would not benefit from life coaching (and there are some who don’t, but this is rare) or that we aren’t a good match (this hasn’t happened yet either), then my personal integrity would prompt me to speak up.
Another good way to help decide on the validity of a coach, is to find out if they belong to a recognised coaching organisation. I.C.F, International Coach Federation, is the organisation that I belong to and it is the world’s largest life coaching association.
Overall, Bliss's article showed life coaching in a positive light but I felt it was important to put the inaccuracies right as they can mean the difference to someone embarking on a life changing course of action or dismissing it and staying in their own quite lives of desperation. We need to acknowledge the power of the written word and keep as accurate and honest as we can – someone’s future happiness could depend on it.
Recently my good friend, Riana Avis who lives in Surrey in the UK, put out a great blog on The Gift of Listening - http://thebaobabway.com/gift-listening/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook.
Reading this caused me to wonder how we can change to being a good listener if we are aware that we’re not. In a world where ‘it’s all about me’ our need to be listened to may overshadow our ability to be a listening ear for others. So what needs to happen?
Self awareness is the first place to start and it is vital when we want to change anything - without it we have no idea who or how we are being. Knowing consciously what we are doing and being, we can then choose who or how we would rather be – which can only bring about positive changes in our lives and relationships.
Let’s look at the three levels of listening for insight and understanding:
Level 1 – this is what I call surface listening. It happens when we get together with friends and family during a social occasion and catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. We are tuned into the other person but we are also thinking about what we are going to say next with more focus on ourselves and less on the other. Intuition is mainly quiet.
Level 2 – this level is about deeper listening and it’s when we are less concerned about ourselves and what we are going to say next. We are focused on the other person, allowing our intuition to kick in and letting ourselves dance in the moment during the conversation.
Level 3 – this is the deepest listening level where intuition is fully present between two people. Speaking only from this place of deep knowing it feels like the universe is present in the conversation and all sense of time and space is gone. It’s the place when we tangibly feel that ‘God’ is also part of the interaction and only oneness exists – a place of pure peace and connection.
What level of conversation do you mostly take part in? For most of us it’s Level 1 with occasionally getting to Level 2 but rarely, if ever, getting to Level 3.
There is nothing wrong in being in L 1 as it’s a socially acceptable place to be and serves us well when we are out at a café /restaurant or at a family reunion. But could it be that what’s hampering our deeper connection with others is that we haven’t learned how to go from L1 to L 2 or 3?
The next step is deciding if we want to go to a deeper level of listening and why. What’s in it for us to take the focus off ourselves and what we want to say next? How will our relationships improve if we move out of L 1 listening? Creating a big ‘buy in’ by coming up with all the positives that will happen when we contemplate change is a great motivator. Especially if there is existing conflict with loved ones.
For me, I know that I am never satisfied with L 1 connection. I have a hunger within me that causes me to go deeper within the psyche of the other to create a connection that is beyond ego. Dr Wayne Dyer has an interpretation of ego: Edge God Out. When we edge the God within out of our lives and our interactions we will only come from the most selfish part of ourselves, demanding our needs be met, and thinking only of what we can get from others.
When we move into the place of coming from our intuition then we are bypassing ego and going to our spiritual mind, or the Inner Christ (or whatever you want to call it), where we speak and act not on the basis of rational judgment but on sheer intensity of right perception. And that perception is apart from ego.
There are tools that we can start using that will help us move away from L 1 ego listening to L 2 and 3 intuitive listening. The first one is paraphrasing - where we take what a person has said and summarise it in a few words or sentences. Another one is focused questioning - drawing the person out, helping them become aware of what is going on for them at a deeper level. This not only helps bring more clarity to their experience, but forms a deep connection between you both. And another one, probably the most powerful of all, is being aware when your intuition is ‘pinging’ you while they are talking and once they have finished, allowing these pings to come back into your conscious awareness and feeding the information back to them.
Let’s use an example to illustrate all three levels of listening and the tools above. Someone describes to you how they had an ‘Aha moment’. They go into great detail about what led up to it, how it occurred, what insights they had and how they felt.
Level 1 would say, “Wow, that’s really great. I had something similar happen to me last week …”
How do you think the other person feels when this takes place? How do you feel when you have poured your heart out and the other person quickly moves their attention away from you and gets on to their stuff?
Level 2 would say, “How amazing. It sounds to me like you had a profound experience that has caused a shift in your thinking. I can hear new energy in your voice and see by the smile on your face that you are feeling really liberated and ready to move on with this new insight.”
This will likely get a positive response such as, “That’s exactly how it is for me, I love that you understand me.”
How do you feel when others ‘get’ you in this way? Is this not what you would like to give back?
This can be followed by questions like, “So how do you think this is going to impact on your life from now on?” “What areas in your life can you apply this understanding to?” “If you were able to use this insight in your relationships, which ones do you think would benefit the most?”
There are many focused questions that can be asked at this stage and it’s a matter of allowing intuition to bring them into your mind by staying peaceful and calm rather than trying to grasp at them. Practice of this process is necessary (like learning to play the piano) and working with a life coach or a personal growth program like Landmark Forum or Avatar will really help move you forward in this area.
When others focus on you with these sorts of enquiring questions, does it make you feel listened to and cared about? This is the gift you can give others.
Being alert to the pings of intuition when the other person is talking will take the conversation from L 2 to L 3.
“When you talked about the insight you had at this time, I deeply felt that there was some unresolved issues that were holding you back – does this sound right?” “I really feel that there is a deeper mission for you in your life that is going to be revealed at some stage –it’s like God is at work in you, leading you to a place of deeper purpose in your life.” “When you said such and such, I had an inner ping – what do you think was going on for you?”
At this point, tears can flow – of joy or pain or laughter – and it’s here that intuition, compassion and empathy come into their own. To be able to hold another person in this place with love, and where they can hold you is probably one of the most profound experiences we can have. ‘When two or more are gathered in My name, I am there also’, is a statement from Jesus and he was talking about Level 3 listening – he probably wouldn’t put it that way himself! This is a place where listening to intuition is vital and when we are open to connecting to others in Level 3, all the unseen helpers in the universe rush to our aid (according to A Course In Miracles).
What do you think would happen to relationships if we could relate constantly from L 2 and L 3? What would our own personal and spiritual growth journey be like if we were listened to like this and could return the gift? What would the world look, sound and feel like if we all practiced intuitive listening? I guess John Lennon could imagine it.
Hi, I'm Anna Bradbury and I'm an experienced Life Coach and member of ICF (International Coach Federation). I love helping people and couples realise their goals and dreams. With your hard work and focus, my guidance, and proven Life Coaching techniques, you can achieve all you desire.