The goal of relationship listening is to support a developmental dialogue, typically in a coaching scenario. Relationship listening in a coaching context has some degree of formality and structure but the key features form a part of any successfully functioning relationship, professional or personal.
There are three key features of relationship listening:
1. Total attention. By demonstrating total attention the listener shows respect for the person talking, a crucial first step in building and sustaining a relationship. Total attention demands appropriate eye contact. Posture and body language needs to be open and inclined towards the speaker. The listener must endeavour to be fully present, which is greatly aided if the environment has minimal distractions.
2. Appreciative. An appreciative listener acknowledges the resourcefulness and capabilities of the person speaking, sometimes to a greater degree than the speaker does themselves. The listener is attentive to the aspirations of the speaker and encouraging. Appropriate challenge can also form a part of being appreciative. It can assert that the listener wants to support the speaker in their growth.
3. Empathetic. As the listener there is a responsibility to demonstrate an understanding of the feelings expressed by the speaker, acknowledging the presence of them but not necessarily validating them.
Everything that we do involves other people and relationships are key to those people working well together. Relationship listening skills are essential to practice for all leaders.
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