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'Listening without Judgment' from Leading with Intention with Lisa G. Kramer

Listening without Judgment

By: Lisa G. Kramer, MSW, PCC

What does it mean to listen without judgment? 

In coaching, we refer to listening without judgment as being in 'charge neutral'.  But is being in charge neutral truly possible for coaches all of the time?  In a recent coaching Mentor Group, one participant raised an example of a client he was working with who constantly viewed the cup as half empty, despite her many accomplishments and successes.  From the coach's perspective, the client was "whining", and this irritated the coach.  The coach decided to tell the client how he experienced her.  According to the coach, the relationship was never quite the same.  In processing this situation with the group, the coach became clear about how he was judging the client as a "whiner".  Something was triggered in him in response to the perceived whining that had nothing to do with the client.  The result was a breakdown in the relationship.  After discussing the situation with the group, the coach better understood how his emotional reaction to the client interfered with his ability to be in charge neutral, and left the client feeling judged.

Clients invite us to share our observations with them.  In fact, that is part of what they hire us to do.  However there are times when we have difficulty being in charge neutral when making an observation because the subject matter triggers something within us.  In the above example, the coach judged the client for not feeling grateful for all she had in her life.  Had he been able to separate himself from the client, he could have provided her with a rich opportunity for deeper self-exploration.

How can coaches be effective in situations where they find themselves judging their clients?

  • First, it is important to be aware when you are judging a client.  Judgments are easy to recognize because they evoke an emotional reaction for the coach, such as irritation in the above example.  This reaction has to do with the coach, not the client.
  • Second, know that this reaction is an opportunity for you to learn something more about yourself.  As human beings, we are always in the process of learning about ourselves.  Rather than judging yourself for judging your client, see this as an opportunity for greater understanding that will help you become a masterful coach.
  • Third, seek out an objective sounding board to help you get clear about the judgment such as a mentor coach or coaching peer group.  Seeking support from trusted colleagues can be empowering and energizing!
  • Finally, decide how you want to move forward in your relationship with your client.  Once you have clarity about the situation and your reaction to it, the judgment is released and you are able to proceed in a way that will best serve your client.  Everyone wins!

About the Author

Philadelphia-based leadership/executive coach Lisa Kramer, PCC is founder and president of Leading with Intention, a coaching company that partners with organizations to achieve greater business and personal success through leadership and executive coaching, and coaching skills training. For more information about Leading with Intention, go to: www.leadingwithintention.com and follow Lisa at www.facebook.com/leadingwithintention.

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