Virtually all coach training emphasises – with good reason – the importance of listening skills. Paying attention to what’s being said, asking about what’s not expressed, interrupting a well-rehearsed story… these are all competencies that most practising coaches have.
What about the other senses though? How do you “listen” with your eyes, with your sense of smell and touch, with your somatic and energy awareness? Do you trust your “gut feel” that tells you something is wrong, when you sit in a room with a client, or do you try to “shoo it away”, and focus even harder on the linguistic content? How about the energy field? Do you ever feel that some coaching clients drain the energy of the room? Or perhaps take over, with no space left for your interventions, or your presence? Do you find yourself dreading certain coaching sessions, and then blaming it on the commute, or your partner and kids, or your lack of exercise?
These are all data. And while many of us believe that they are not as scientifically valid, or observable, or trustworthy, we ignore them at our peril. Tuning in to the energy field that we share with our coaching clients, can often provide insights deeper and wider than purely listening to their words, and how they tell them.
I have once spent the best part of a coaching session with a client where our stomachs were rumbling in unison… and, whereas a few years ago, I might have dismissed it or tried to explain it by missed lunch, I was now ready to draw both our attentions to it. Only to discover – and not in as neat an intervention as this – that there was a lot that was “unpalatable” to the client about his current work environment.
Paying attention to somatic and energetic clues does not mean that we stray into “woo-woo” or healing territory, or even into counselling; it purely means that we listen with more than just our ears. That we pay attention to whatever is present for us and the client. And that by doing so, we can often get far more precious insights than purely those that have been processed into language.