Levels of Listening
One of the first skills that a cash flow coach will seek to master is listening. This is because they understand the importance of listening; they don’t take it for granted and recognise there are distinctive levels of listening.
Because most of us can hear, we tend to think that listening comes naturally. Whereas hearing is a sensory process, listening is a skill that requires practice to perfect. Developing good listening techniques is essential to cash flow coaching and in communicating with others. Yet even experienced cash flow coaches can become overly focussed on cutting edge tools and techniques at the expense of listening appropriately to the client. As cash flow coaches start out on their journey, they tend to interject with questions, paraphrase what has been said or even interrupt with a suggestion or solution as opposed to really concentrating on what their client is saying
This is because it’s not easy to remain fully engaged in the words and messages coming from another person's mouth and one of the underlying reasons for this is that, as humans we are basically conditioned, from an early age, to do rather than observe. Watch a game of Pass the Parcel at a kids birthday party, and it is evident that all participants are thinking the same thing - ‘when is it my turn’.
There is great power and value to a client from you, as a cash flow coach, ‘just listening’. People are more attuned and effective in assimilating a concept when they are allowed to verbalise it without interruption. The alternative of quietly thinking through a new idea or a change of habit is much more difficult. When the verbal part of our brains is disengaged, our subconscious is free to reference other thoughts. That’s when we start thinking about the conversation we need to have with our partner when we get home, or we suddenly remember the name of that song we heard last night.
Therefore, the value of a cash flow coach starts with simply being there as a sounding board to focus the client’s mind. And listening really intently, and hanging on every word, can almost negate the chance of the client deviating from the subject and task at hand.
It’s the Little Things
There are basic tendencies we have that can detract from ‘good’ listening – nodding too much or saying the same word or phrase whenever there is a pause or break in the client’s conversation.
The word ‘OK’, is a seemingly innocuous insertion coaches use to show they are listening. It can be, however, quite distracting and even harmful as it can infer a conclusion - ‘OK, I’ve heard what you’ve said – what else would you like to address’. Similar words include ‘right’ and uh-huh’.
Other words like ‘excellent’ work well if used sparingly, as they promote positivity and motivation. However, when used too often or when there is nothing of real note to comment on, impact and genuineness are lost.
Interestingly, as a cash flow coach, you may not be aware of overusing these words. It is a fine line between occasional use, to demonstrate you are listening, and mindless repetition which undermines the coaching session.
If you recognise you may be overdoing these things (through your own awareness or through feedback) there are substitutions. When a response is appropriate you can paraphrase or mirror what has been said or remain quiet, maintaining eye contact with the client to determine that they have completed their thought process.
The Five (or Seven) Levels of Listening
Listening has been categorised into different levels, indicating a range; from poor listening (which we are all guilty of from time to time) to good listening which cash flow coaches should aspire to. Here are the five levels of listening.
At the lowest level of listening, we are basically not listening at all or ignoring the other person. Whilst this is fundamentally rude and should be easily avoided it can be more about the perception of the speaker. Whilst listening to your client, if your attention moves to something else, even momentarily, they can get the impression that you are ignoring them. Worse, if you make a comment or commence a conversation with someone else you are ignoring your client.
Pretend listening is also referred to as patronising listening. When we are pretending to listen, we are waiting for our turn to speak and state our position, opinion or point of view. Very little of what the speaker is saying is registering because our brain is busy concentrating on how best we can say what we want to say. Similarly, when you are on the phone and working on an unrelated email or document, the speaker can tell you’re distracted. Their conclusion – we don’t really care what they have to say!
3. Selective Listening
When we are selective in our listening, we pay attention to the speaker as long as they are talking about things we like or agree with. We are listening for the things that will serve us, things we can use to promote our own position or point of view. If the conversation moves to other areas, we regress to the pretending or ignoring levels.
4. Attentive Listening
During attentive listening, we are listening carefully to the other person. However, we are also deciding whether we agree or disagree or determining whether they are right or wrong. When our brains are engaged in this decision-making process, we are not paying close attention to the other person, but instead formulating our response to what is being said.
The first four levels of listening have one thing in common – they are listening from our own perspective, with the intention of responding from our own experiences, judgement, assumptions, values and beliefs. This is counterproductive in a cash flow coaching context.
5. Active Listening
The fifth level of listening is Active Listening. Active Listening is the ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires and to support client self-expression. To achieve active listening, a cash flow coach will slow down, be patient, talk less and listen more, repeating back what was said to ensure they don’t overlook anything.
Active listening is at the top level of listening. It is hard to accomplish as it requires a realisation and discipline to see things through the eyes of the client. With practice and experience, listening skills can move to the higher realms of Empathic Listening (also known as empathetic listening) and Global Listening. At these higher realms the cash flow coach will spend even more time listening and less time talking.
To self-evaluate your level of listening, ask yourself “WHERE IS MY FOCUS?” Active listeners are listening from the client’s perspective.
Level 1 should be avoided in all situations.
Levels 2 and 3 cannot be classified as listening, but they can have their place. When information and ideas need to be exchanged, time is a factor or when people are looking for a specific answer they are appropriate.
Levels 4 and 5 are where cash flow coaching sessions should be ‘held’.
elevateB provides the training program as well as support and ongoing development for certified cash flow coaches. Individuals who choose to work with a certified cash flow coach are better placed to achieve financial independence and security. If you would like to make a difference and help everyday Australians be more financially prudent and savvy, consider becoming a cash flow coach today. Click here.