“What I lack in experience, I make up in clichés. No seriously, my door is always open…” The character, Dylan literally removes the door off its hinges during the scene in the movie, “Friends with Benefits” staring Justin Timberlake (Dylan) and Mila Kunis (Jamie), where Dylan is making a point about his ‘open-door’ policy on his first day at the office.

How many of you have been in an organization with an “open-door policy” but the person you are talking to appears impatient, takes calls, or receives/sends texts during your meeting? Think back when you were in a conversation and the other person was either looking at their phone or computer. What about at the dinner table or while out at a restaurant. I think I can safely say that we have all experienced this with our children, another family member, friend, or a business associate. How did that make you feel?

Now, think of a time when you kept looking at your phone or seemed distracted while someone was talking with you. What message do you think you were giving that person? Transfer this scenario to your Coaching practice and your Client is pouring their heart out to you. You’re drumming your fingers, (maybe not literally) and that all too familiar look of disinterest or impatience is on your face and/or in your body language. You missed your lunch because your previous Client session ran over, (by the way—not your current Client’s fault). Your stomach thinks your throat has been cut and your mind wanders to that wonderful little café just around the corner from your office, or maybe the delectable leftovers you are anticipating biting into. You think surreptitiously looking at your watch or phone when you feel it buzz in your pocket is unnoticed by your Client. I can tell you that tactic rarely works. Do you think your Client is receiving the message that you are fully engaged and Listening? Do you think this type of communication is going to build trust between you and them? Well…, I don’t think so either.

Until we, as Integrated Heart-Centered Coaches and Leaders are aware and understand what active listening skills are, we cannot hope to offer Clients sound advice or build the type of meaningful connections that provides assistance that guides the Client to what they need. Not until the Client has the sense, they can trust our ability to hear them, will we ever hope to draw them out to get to the core of their issue…the heart of what matters to them. Mastering active listening skills will build this precious rapport between us: the Coach and our Clients.

An environment exuding intentional purpose with your Client, that they matter, must be established. The space must say, “I am here for you. I am ready to be fully engaged. I am listening with every fiber of my being to you.” Here are some tips to create this type of space:

Find/create the right environment.

• Remove Distractions:

 Shut the Door. Give the Client privacy and show the world, I am engaged in an important session/meeting.

 Shut your phone off. Put it away to remove the temptation to look at it.

• Have an established setting for you and your Client to sit that is inviting other than you sitting behind your desk and the Client sits on the other side, thus putting distance between the two of you.

• Sit in such away, that shows the Client with your body that you are listening.

• Quiet your Mind: Breathe and perform a few minutes mantra/meditation between each Client session.

Frame the Coaching Conversation

• Outline the process to include what your Client may expect in their session:

o Confidentiality

o Uninterrupted time

o Discussion

o Evaluation

o Feedback

o Follow-up

• Tune into Client Communication Style: Be ready to shift your communication to match your Client’s tone, rhythm, word usage, body language, etc. (NLP). Explore what their optimal desired state is. Help them to envision their success; allowing for change during the sessions with a plan to reach their vision.

• Listen more, speak less: Ask clarifying questions, then listen to their response. We have heard by several Facilitators and Presenters, this is about their story, not ours.

• Rephrase, repeat every so often what your Client said to ensure they know you understood their intent.

• Take notes. Ask permission or let the Client know you will be taking notes to indicate to the Client you are genuinely interested in what they are saying to the point you need to write it down to remember and refer back to what they said. But remember to Listen.

• Set your alarm (not a jarring, loud noise) to respect the time allotted for your session. This will also let your Client know you respect their time when you may be meeting with someone else and this Client is the one waiting.

• Follow-up with the Client if appropriate, i.e.: something said but time ran out to fully discuss, exercises, or confirm next appointment.

Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.

― Roy T. Bennett

Remember, you are the Coach. The Client must immediately feel your calm assurance the moment they step into your environment. Putting your Client at ease with a smile, and an initial greeting to let them know you are ready to give them your undivided attention, will show them you care about them. I can’t think of anything that will replace genuine interest as far as your Client is concerned.

Copyright © AJ Myers, partner with WeLink, member of Beautiful Mess – A Women’s Connection Group, Business Lifestyle Pros, and Six Seconds – Emotional Intelligence Network. Author of women’s empowerment articles in Write and Shine, and May Lux, and co-author of A Journey of Riches: Abundant Living and A Journey of Riches: Messages of from the Heart books.

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