Utilise empathic listening to deeply connect with and understand your client. Connecting both emotionally and intellectually requires practice, discipline, and effort.
“Empathic listening is not listening until you understand. It’s listening until the other person feels understood.” ~ Stephen R. Covey
Atwater (1992) identifies three things a listener can do to convey empathy. First, show our desire to understand the person. Second, reflect the person’s feelings or felt meanings. Third, pace the person’s sensory and non-verbal behavior.
Where possible try to use naturalistic observation. This simply means to observe your client in their natural context and environment without getting in the way.
This also reduces the impact of your own cognitive bias to subconsciously influence your client.
Focus on what you’re observing, not on making judgments about what you’re seeing.
Look for things that are working well just as much as for things that aren’t.
Craft questions that are either completely open, or at least conceptually open and grammatically closed.
Grammatically closed questions provide focus and specificity, while open-ended questions foster discussions and understanding. This is based on the Open Questioning Mindset as defined by Peter Worley.
A key part of a great coaching engagement is learning enough in order to ask thoughtful questions.
Inventing something new can be hard. Innovating, on the other hand, is more approachable as it’s about building on what already exists.
Once you have listened, observed, and questioned you will have uncovered a wealth of information.
Challenge your client to put this information together in new ways. Help them to find gaps, merge ideas, and design experiments. Make the sum of their discoveries greater than the individual parts.