Wales Quality Centre
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Beginning in the late 1990s articles in magazines touted the value of having a coach and
executives in companies began exploring what a coach could do for their companies
and for their own performances.!
Coaching encourages us to consider human beings in their wholeness, not just focusing
on the problem or the area for improvement, but realizing that we bring our whole
selves to our work and our relationships with others. Often in our impatience to “fix” a
problem, we ignore the person and focus just on the problem. Coaching takes us
away from the fixing mode and leads us into a new way of working with others that
are more open, organic and fluid.!
While the process of becoming a competent coach involves training, self-development,
and practice, this module will introduce how participants can diagnose where a
breakdown in a person’s performance is occurring and develop practices to help that
!By the end of this session, participants will be able to:!
! • Distinguish between coaching and mentoring!
• Understand the signiﬁcance of goals within coaching.!
• Distinguish and recognise various coaching models!
• Conduct coaching sessions!
• Read Body Language signals!
• Enhanced their Questioning skills!
• Recognise the importance of listening in the coaching process!
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Overview: Perceived Purpose, Intended outcomes, schedule – Individual goals
What is it - how has it developed
C. Good and bad practice related to coaching and mentoring
Coaching video examples – a video example of both good and bad practice –
including Coaching – how not to do it!
D. Coaching Models
Introduction and understanding of 4 coaching models including!
• The GROW model!
• The OSKAR coaching model!
The importance of goal setting!
E. Body Language
Examination of the theory and practice of body language – The group will observe a
presentation and comment on the body language signals
Exploration of various questioning techniques that will enable greater coaching
We all talk about but few us practice it -learn how to improve your listening skills
Learning and the competence ladder
I. Session review
Delegates are issued with a post assignment
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Use the space below to record any personal goals you would like to achieve as a
consequence of this course. Once your goals have been recorded please discuss with a
colleague – this will help to crystalise and test the validity of the goals!
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Please use the space to record a deﬁnition of coaching – Once constructed please discuss
with a colleague. Also use this time to discuss potential beneﬁts of coaching and examples
of good and bad coaching practices either observed or experienced!
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Etymologically, the English term “coach” is derived from a medium of transport that traces
its origins to the Hungarian word kocsi meaning “carriage” that was named after the village
where it was ﬁrst made. The ﬁrst use of the term coaching to mean an instructor or trainer
arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who "carries" a student through
an exam. Coaching thus, has been used in language to describe the process used to
transport people from where they are, to where they want to be. The ﬁrst use of the
term in relation to sports came in 1831.!
Historically the evolution of coaching has been inﬂuenced by many other ﬁelds of study
including those of personal development, adult education, psychology (sports, clinical,
developmental, organizational, social and industrial) and other organizational or leadership
theories and practices. !
Since the mid-1990s, coaching has developed into a more independent discipline and
professional associations such as the Association for Coaching, The International Coach
Federation, and the European Coaching and Mentoring Council have helped develop a set
of training standards - Janet Harvey, president of the International Coach Federation, was
quoted in a New York Times article about the growing practice of Life Coaching, in which
she traces the development of coaching to the early 1970s Human Potential Movement
and credited the teachings of Werner Erhard's "Training," the popular self-motivation
workshops he designed and led in the '70's and early '80's. !
The facilitative approach to coaching in sport was pioneered by Timothy Gallwey (1974 -
The Inner Game of Tennis.); before this, sports coaching was (and often remains) solely a
skills-based learning experience from a master in the sport. Other contexts for coaching
include executive coaching, life coaching, emotional intelligence coaching and wealth
“Coaching - unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance; helping
them to learn rather than teaching them”!
Timothy Gallwey -Author the inner game!
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Can you Coach –The Nail challenge!
For this exercise we will need 2 volunteers to act as coaches. The aim of the exercise is to
see how many nails can be balanced on the head of the nail that has been hammered into
the piece of wood provided. We will make the exercise competitive – which team can
achieve the greater number!
At the end of the exercise please record your views of how the coach aided (or not) the
The nails must be free standing – no additional materials, glue, elastic bands etc can be
used to help the nails balance on the head of the nail in the wood!
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Good coach bad coach!
Observe the following video and record any good or bad practices!
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The GROW model!
The GROW model was developed in the United Kingdom and was used extensively in the
corporate coaching market in the late 1980s and 1990s.!
There have been many claims to authorship of GROW as a way of achieving goals and
solving problems. While no one person can be clearly identiﬁed as the originator Graham
Alexander, Alan Fine, Sir John Whitmore,who are well known in the world of coaching,
made signiﬁcant contributions. Max Landsberg also describes GROW in his book The Tao
GROW is very well known in the business arena but it also has many applications in
everyday life. The particular value of GROW is that it provides an effective, structured
methodology which both helps set goals effectively and is a problem solving process.!
It can be used by anyone without special training. The value of GROW is that it is easily
understood, straightforward to apply and very thorough. In addition it is possible to apply it
to a large variety of issues in a very effective way.!
G Goal This is the end point, where the client wants to be. The goal has to be deﬁned in
such a way that it is very clear to the client when they have achieved it. !
R Reality This is how far the client is away from their goal. If the client were to look at all
the steps they need to take in order to achieve the goal, the Reality would be the number
of those steps they have completed so far. !
O Obstacles There will be Obstacles stopping the client getting from where they are now
to where they want to go. If there were no Obstacles the client would already have
reached their goal. !
Options Once Obstacles have been identiﬁed, the client needs to ﬁnd ways of dealing with
them if they are to make progress. These are the Options. !
W Way Forward The Options then need to be converted into action steps which will take
the client to their goal. These are the Way Forward.!
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This is a very simple example of using the GROW model to achieve a goal. This example
deals with weight loss. The client wants: ‘To bring my weight down to 120 pounds in three
months and keep it down’. That is their Goal.!
The GROW approach would then be to establish the Reality by stating what their weight is
now. The coach would then ask awareness questions to deepen understanding of what is
happening when the client tries to lose weight, thus identifying the Obstacles. These
questions could include:!
• When you have been able to lose weight – what made the difference?!
• What is the difference between the times you are able to keep weight off and the
times when you put it on again?!
• What would have to change for you to be sure you could lose the weight and keep it
If the client genuinely answers these questions they will discover new information about
what works and does not work for them in terms of weight loss, and create some potential
for change. It then becomes possible to create some strategies or Options which get
around the Obstacles. These could include looking at which diets or exercise regimes work
best, or ﬁnding a speciﬁc type of support. Once the client knows the strategies that are
likely to work they can establish a Way Forward which involves taking action steps. This is
where they commit to what they will do in the short term to put the strategies into effect.
For instance, one action might be asking a particular person for support, and another
might be to buy a different selection of foods.!
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OSKAR Coaching Model!
The OSKAR Coaching Model is a solutions-focused coaching model. It was invented
by Paul Z Jackson. Managers and coaches like it because it’s easy and useful. The
acronym OSKAR stands for!
Outcome — establish a “platform” (the current problem/situation) for change from
which to coach.!
Scaling — establish where the coachee is already in relation to the platform.!
Know How — establish what positives have given the coachee that rating.!
Afﬁrm and Action — positive reinforcement of the keys strengths and attributes the
coachee has revealed.!
Review — review progress against actions (this takes place at the beginning of the
next coaching session.)!
At this initial stage of the model the coach establishes a “platform” from which to coach:
the coachee accepts her situation and her committment to change. This conﬁrms that the
coachee really wants to change. At the outset you are also clarifying:!
What the coachee wants to achieve in the future — this may be in the long, medium
and short term.!
What they want to achieve from the session itself and how they will know it has been
useful to them!
The Future Perfect: “Suppose that the problem vanished overnight – how will you know
tomorrow that the transformation has happened? — How will others know? What will
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you be doing?”
In other words the perfect scenario desired by the coachee is established. At this point
the coach might ask miracle questions. Miracle questions really help the coachee
strongly to visualise and in detail the desired outcome.!
What the coachee wants to achieve today.!
Once coach and coachee have a common clear picture of the desired outcome of the
coaching the coach establishes where the coachee is already in relation to this. Scaling
Techniques which are also used in Agile Retrospectives are very useful to quantify this
relation on a scale of 1 to 10.!
• “On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents the Future Perfect and 0 represents
the worst it has ever been: where are you on that scale today?”!
• “You are at a particular number n on the scale now. What did you do to achieve
• “How would you know you would have achieved your next number n+1 on the
Know How !
In the Know How stage the coach uncovers the positives motivating the coachee to her
rating by linking to the Scaling stage – what skills, knowledge and attributes caused her to
say a 4 or 5 rather than a 0.!
This stage is all about building up the coachee’s awareness and developing her
conﬁdence on the own strengths. At this stage the coach might ask s0 called systemic
• “What skills/knowledge/attributes do you currently have that will help you?”!
• “When have you done
• “What would others
say is working for
• “What helps you to
perform at level n on
the scale, rather than
• “When does the
happen for you?”!
• “What did you do to
make that happen?
— How did you do
• “What did you do differently?”!
• “What would other people say you are doing well?”!
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The Know How stage is really like “digging for gold”. — Plenty of time should be taken to
establish the resources the coachee has available to her.!
Afﬁrm and Action !
In the Afﬁrming stage the coach provides a positive reinforcement of what she had heard.
The coach reﬂects back positive comments about some of the keys strengths and
attributes the coachee has revealed, e.g. “I am impressed with the knowledge you have in
this are.” or “It’s evident from what you have just said that this is working for you.”!
Action — this is about helping the coachee to determine what small action or actions she
will now take.!
• “What is already going well?”!
• “What is the next small step?”!
• “What would you like to do personally, straight away?”!
• “You are at scale n now – what would it take to get you to n+1?”!
This ﬁnal stage of the OSKAR coaching model is for reviewing progress against actions
and is therefore most likely to take place at the beginning of the next coaching session.
The emphasis is on reviewing the positives:!
• “What is (now) better?”!
• “What did you do that made change successful?”!
• “What do you think will change next?”!
• “What effects have the changes had?”!
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Try it out – Exercise!
Individually - Construct a CV - containing your planned achievements for the forthcoming
In pairs - Coach using 1 of the coaching models, working on the assumption that you are
meeting in 1 month!
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Body language Video’s - watch the following video’s and record your observations!
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How to Read Body Language to Reveal the Underlying Truth in Almost Any Situation!
You've likely heard that body language accounts for up to 55% of how we communicate,
but reading non-verbal cues isn't just about broad strokes. The same gesture can indicate
a number of different things depending on context. In this post, we're going to take a look
at three common situations in which non-verbal cues are especially important—detecting
lies, going on a date, and interviewing for a job—then explain how to interpret body
language more accurately so that you can read between the lines when a person's words
aren't necessarily conveying the way that they honestly feel.!
We lie a lot. When having a conversation with a stranger, chances are we'll lie in the ﬁrst
ten minutes. Sometimes we'll lie more than once in that same period of time. These may
not always be big lies, but we still do it. We all willingly partake in deception from time to
time because it helps us avoid conﬂict, but often we're better off knowing the truth. While
words can be deceptive, the human body is a terrible liar. This is where reading body
language and using your own effectively, can be extremely useful when communicating
Body Language Basics!
When you're reading body language, your primary goal is to determine whether or not a
person is comfortable in their current situation. Once you do this, it's a process of using
context and other cues—which we'll get into later—to ﬁgure out the speciﬁcs. There are
plenty of ways a person may indicate their comfort level, but here are a few of the most
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Positive body language:!
• Moving or leaning closer
• Relaxed, uncrossed limbs!
• Long periods of eye
• Looking down and away
out of shyness!
• Genuine smiles!
Negative body language:!
• Moving or leaning away from you!
• Crossed arms or legs!
• Looking away to the side!
• Feet pointed away from you, or towards and exit!
• Rubbing/scratching their nose, eyes, or the back of their neck!
A single cue can mean a myriad of things.
For example, crossed arms falls under
the category of negative body
language and can suggest that a person
is physically cold, closed off, or
frustrated. It can even indicate that they've
simply had too much to eat. It's
necessary to pay attention to
multiple behavioral cues as a single one
can be misleading. While it will help to
indicate comfort level, to really
understand why you need to look deeper.
This means paying attention to other cues as well as their context. As we get into the
speciﬁc situations, we'll look at how these cues work together to help uncover the truth in a
Spot a Liar!
One of the biggest advantages of learning to read body language well is being able to
judge when someone is lying with a fair amount of accuracy. Your intuition is never going
to be 100% accurate, but with a little practice you can become more aware of when you're
being fed a load of crap. It's very important to recognize what kind of lies you are actually
detecting. The techniques we're going to discuss in this section correspond to big lies—the
lies people tell when they are uncomfortable or afraid of the truth. These skills will get you
almost nowhere in detecting white lies, small lies of omission, and what people do most
often: exaggerate. Those types of deception are very hard to detect, and it's important to
remember that, regardless of the type of untruth, you'll never know for certain. You can,
however, pick up on common cues so you know when to hold a healthy suspicion about
what a person is saying.!
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Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, conducted signiﬁcant research on the ways we lie to
ﬁgure out the common patterns in our body language. She found that liars often exhibit
much of the behavior you'd ﬁnd in any other uncomfortable person, but with a few very
speciﬁc additional traits.!
People are bad at offering a
genuine smile when they're lying.
In fact, a genuine smile (often
referred to as a Duchenne
smile), is often said to be
impossible to fake. This is why
many of us end up with
awkward family photos. We may
think we look like we're
smiling, but to most anyone it looks
like we're faking it. This is
because your smile is in your
eyes, or, more speciﬁcally, the
wrinkles around them. You
display a few crows feet when you
smile genuinely because your smile
pushes up your cheeks which
bunches up the skin near your eyes.
It's fairly hard to fake this. You need to feel some sort of genuine happy emotion at the
time to do it, and when you're uncomfortable this is next to impossible. This is why a non-
genuine smile can be a helpful indicator of a lie in progress.!
Stiff Upper Body and Too Much Eye Contact
Liars like to overcompensate when they're lying, and so they'll often try to remain still and
offer eye contact. This will often result in so much eye contact it's often a little unsettling,
and their body will
attempting not to
people move and do
not hold eye contact for
extended periods of time.
however, people will often
rub their neck or eyes
and look away to the
side. Rather than exhibit the positive body language that would imply comfort, liars tend to
opt for doing very little. This, in and of itself, is an indicator. Look for tense shoulders and
an unusually high amount of eye contact and you'll be more likely to spot a liar.!
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Context and Paired
In addition to all these
non-verbal cues, you'll
need to pay attention to
the context. Liars will
often offer more details
in their stories, suggest
punishments for the
"real culprit" if they're
being accused of
something, and answer
you questions with a
question to give them
time to fabricate an
answer rather than
provide you with the
truth. These behaviors, when paired with standard negative body language and the
previously mentioned cues that liars exhibit, give you the right mix of untrustworthy
behavior. Separately they may not mean much, but together they point to dishonesty.!
It's important to remember, however, that some people are just awkward and exhibit this
kind of behavior with regularity. You should take the way a person normally acts into
consideration as well. Watch their mannerisms and eye movements when you know
they're telling the truth and compare that to the times when you think they're lying. When
you see consistent change when certain statements are made, you'll know how this
speciﬁc person acts when they're thinking of what to say rather than recalling information.
Again, this or anything else previously mentioned isn't sufﬁcient in detecting lies. You have
to look for multiple cues or what you'll just discover that you're fooling yourself into
believing you know the difference between fact and ﬁction.!
Remember: Body Language Is Only Part of the Picture!
A better understanding of human
body language can be useful in
your own communication and in
understanding others. It can also
be a lot of fun to feel like you know
what other people are thinking,
when they're lying to you, and how
comfortable they are in a given
situation. That said, you're
not a psychic. You can't read
minds and the non-verbal cues you
interpret are never going to tell you
exactly what someone is feeling or
thinking with spot-on accuracy.
These techniques will help you
Page of19 41
ﬁnd clues that can help you understand other people. Use them to communicate better
and gain a better awareness of those around you. Don't pretend they're magic. All you're
doing is paying closer attention to your natural, human intution.!
Questioning – an acquired skill or a natural gift!
The following material provides an excellent framework and platform to develop your
questioning skills –Ref:. http://www.trans4mind.com/mind-development/course2_files/
Being able to ask questions is an important communication skill, both for conversation and
for study. Questioning is a right-brain function, so work on this ability will help open out a
holistic awareness. Nine types of questions are identified for this course. After you have
done this section, you will be more aware of this aspect of communication, so that you can
ask any type of appropriate question at will.
Questioning Exercise 1: The first exercise is aimed at becoming more fluent in the skill of
asking questions, and to overcome timidity.
Coach and Student sit face to face about 1 meter apart. The coach and Student use the
Coaching Communication Cycle.
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a) The Coach says, "Ask me a question."
b) The Student asks a question.
c) The Coach briefly answers the question.
If the Student does not reply by asking a question, makes remarks or hesitates longer than
about ten seconds, the coach repeats the request, "Ask me a question."
Steps a), b) and c) should be repeated for ten minutes. Then, the Student and coach
exchange roles and continue for the next ten minutes.
At first, the Student will usually ask questions that are totally safe, such as "What is the
time?", but with practice, he will be able to ask the questions he really wants to ask without
turning a hair.!
1. Open Questions
These are questions that cannot be answered with a 'yes' or a 'no'. They invite the listener
to talk fully about his opinions, thoughts, feelings and knowledge. Such questions often
begin with "How," 'Why," or "What."
'What do you think about London?'
'Why are you learning about communication?'
'Tell me about your ambition?'
'Why are you laughing?'
'How do you use this computer?'
Open questions cannot be answered with 'yes' or 'no'. They are used to invite the listener
to speak freely about his interests and feelings, beliefs and hopes, reasons and opinions.
You should be aware when 'What?' and 'Why?' are being used, especially with children, to
covertly criticize. For example, 'Why are you using that?' (meaning that you shouldn't use
it) and, 'What are you doing that for?' (meaning you mustn't).
When a person asks a question and it is clear, either by the manner of the questioner or
the question, that there is a hidden purpose, e.g. to make you feel wrong, control you, put
you down, or jeopardize you, the appropriate response is to ask, "Why are you asking that
question?" People who ask such questions are often suffering from envy.
Open Questions Exercise: Firstly, try to write a few examples of open questions you
could ask your partner. Write down the answers, checking that they DO invite conversation
and cannot be answered 'yes' or 'no'. After you get the idea, do the next part of the
Coach and Student sit face to face about 1 meter apart. The Coach and Student use the
Coaching Communication Cycle. The Coach begins the exercise with 'Start', or 'Start of
Open Question Exercise'.
a) The Coach says "Ask me an open question."
b) The Student asks an open question.
c) The coach answers. The coach does not have to base his answer on his own
experience; he can invent the answer if he wishes.
d) The Student acknowledges the answer, saying, "Thank you", "Fine", or another
e) The coach returns to step a).
This exercise is to train the Student to use open questions. The Coach corrects the
Student if the question isn't open, or if the Student fails to follow the Communication Cycle.
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Coach: "Ask me an open question."
Student: "What have you been doing today?"
Coach: "I went to work, etc."
Coach: "Ask me an open question."
Student: "Are you happy?"
Coach: "Was that an open question?"
Coach: "All right, let's continue. Ask me an open question."
Student: "How do you feel about your job?......"
This exercise is completed when the Student is able to ask open questions without
2. Closed Questions
These questions can be answered with 'yes' or 'no', or they are questions that have only
one answer such as a specific piece of information. So closed questions are good for
quickly establishing facts. Often this type of question will start with "Where," "When," "How
often," "Which" or something similar.
Examples of Yes/No questions are:
"Do you like cats?"
"Are you nervous?"
"Do you smoke?"
Examples of one-answer questions are?
"What's the time please?"
"How far did you have to travel this evening?"
"When did you leave home?"
Note the difference between 'What's your telephone number?' and 'What do you think
about telephones?' The first question asks for a single piece of information (your telephone
number) and the second is inviting a range of opinions.
Closed Questions Exercise: Get a clear
idea of closed questions by writing some
examples using Who, What, When and
Where, together with their answers.
This exercise is performed in the same
way as the Open Question Exercise,
except the Coach says, "Ask me a closed
The exercise is passed when the Student
can ask closed questions without
3. Extending Questions
These questions invite the listener to say more on the subject, to explore further. For
Student: "Tell me about last night?"
Coach: "I got angry."
Student: "Could you tell me more about that?"
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Coach: "I was asked to smoke outside and I refused."
Student: "I see."
Extending Questions Exercise:
The Coach says, "Ask me a question."
The Student asks an open, or closed question - but usually an open one - and the
Coach answers briefly. The Student asks an extending question and the Coach gives
more information. Then the Student acknowledges.
The exercise follows the principles of the Open Question Exercise.
Advanced exercise: Following on from the above, having asked an extending question
and got an answer, the Student asks further extending questions, until the Coach runs out
of answers. He then asks, "If you could answer (last question) what would the answer be?"
This may restart the flow, which can continue for 5 minutes or more on a single topic.
When the Coach has answered the last of the Student's questions (extending questions
are a part or extension of the first question) then the Student should acknowledge. The
Coach then returns to the beginning of the exercise and says, "Ask me a question."
4. Clarifying Questions
These are questions that invite the listener to explain more clearly or in greater detail. For
"Could you explain that a bit more?"
"What do you mean by 'unreasonable'?"
Clarifying Questions Exercise: Here the Student asks an open question. The Coach
answers. The Student asks a clarifying question. The Coach clarifies and the Student
5. Leading Questions
These are questions that lead the listener to give the answer required by the speaker.
They make it clear which answer is to be expected. For example:
'You're having fun, aren't you?'
'You wouldn't do that, would you?'
'I assume you are studying hard?'
They may used to make polite comments, e.g. 'Nice day, isn't it?' or 'Having fun?'
They put words into the person's mouth, making agreement easier than disagreement.
Rarely does such a question yield much information.
Salesman: "This is a nice color, isn't it?"
Customer: "Yes" (Thinks: It's easier to say 'Yes')!
Write down some examples of your own.
6. Hypothetical Questions
This type of question poses a hypothetical problem or situation. They can be used to
suggest things - without being criticized.
Examples of these are:
'What would happen if we started to sell cassette tapes?'
'What if we moved to Devon?'
'If you started learning French, how long would you take?' Write down some
examples of your own.
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Politicians commonly say, "I never answer hypothetical questions". They can lead you to
agree to something that hasn't happened and that you haven't really thought about. They
are sometimes used by people who worry, to dream up all sorts of bad things that might
7. Double-Barreled Questions
These are two-in-one questions, such as:
'Explain why you were late and why you were rude to the boss?'
'When would you be happy or sad?'
These questions may ask for too much in one go, so the listener is confused or does not
answer all the parts. Write down a few examples.
8. Limited Alternatives
With this type of question the person is presented with a shopping list of alternatives. This
is a closed question and like the leading question, will manipulate the person into giving a
wanted answer rather than truth. For example:
'Which do you prefer, Indian or Chinese food?'
'Would you rather see a film, or stay at home?'
Alternative questions suggest there are only the options stated. For example, said by a
salesman, "Is tomorrow at 10 convenient, or would Tuesday afternoon suit you better?" Of
course, there are many options here that aren't mentioned, including, 'I don't want to see
you at all!'
9. Assuming Questions
Indicative of a closed-mind, these 'beg the question'; that is, they assume something is
true when it might not be. For example,
'What do you think of the crime problem?' (Assumes there is a crime problem.)
'Are you still stealing from the boss?' (Assumes you were and invites the answer
'No', which suggests you were, but have stopped!)
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Listening is the ability to accurately receive messages in the communication
process. Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen
effectively messages are easily misunderstood – communication breaks down and the
sender of the message can easily become frustrated or irritated.
Listening is so important that many top employers give regular listening skills training for
their employees. .
Good listening skills also have benefits in our personal lives, including: a greater number
of friends and social networks, improved self-esteem and confidence, higher grades in
academic work and increased health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that, whereas
speaking raises blood pressure, listening brings it down.
Listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear,
whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying
attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how
the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal
and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which
you perceive and understand these messages.
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen.
Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” Rachel Naomi
Page of25 41
We spend a lot of our time listening
Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of
this an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9%
writing. (Adler, R. et al. 2001).
Based on the research of: Adler, R., Rosenfeld, L. and Proctor, R. (2001) Interplay: the
process of interpersonal communicating (8th edn), Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt.
Of all the communications skills, listening is arguably the one which makes the biggest
The most brilliant and effective speaker utlimately comes undone if he/she fails to listen
Listening does not come naturally to most people, so we need to work hard at it; to stop
ourselves 'jumping in' and giving our opinions.
Mostly, people don't listen - they just take turns to speak - we all tend to be more interested
in announcing our own views and experiences than really listening and understanding
This is ironic since we all like to be listened to and understood. Covey says rightly that
when we are understood we feel affirmed and validated.
He coined the expression: 'Seek first to understand, and then to be understood', which
serves as a constant reminder for the need to listen to the other person before you can
expect them to listen to you.
Levels of listening - 'effective listening'
There are different types of listening. Typically they are presented as levels of listening.
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Various people have constructed listening models. Below is an attempt to encompass and
extend good current listening theory in an accessible and concise way. Bear in mind that
listening is rarely confined merely to words. Sometimes what you are listening to will
include other sounds or intonation or verbal/emotional noises. Sometimes listening
involves noticing a silence or a pause - nothing - 'dead air' as it's known in broadcasting.
You might instead be listening to a musical performance, or an engine noise, or a crowded
meeting, for the purpose of understanding and assessing what is actually happening or
being said. Also, listening in its fullest sense, as you will see below, ultimately includes
many non-verbal and non-audible factors, such as body language, facial expressions,
reactions of others, cultural elements, and the reactions of the speaker and the listeners to
levels and types of listening
1 Passive Listening
or Not Listening
Noise in the background - you are not concentrating on
the sounds at all and nothing is registering with you.
Ignoring would be another way to describe this type of
listening. There is nothing wrong with passive listening if
it's truly not important, but passive listening - which we
might more aptly call Not Listening - is obviously daft
and can be downright dangerous if the communications
2 Pretend Listening You are not concentrating and will not remember
anything because you are actually daydreaming or
being distracted by something else even though you will
occasionally nod or agree using 'stock' safe replies. This
is a common type of listening that grown-ups do with
children. This level of listening is called Responsive
Listening in some other models, although Pretend
Listening is arguably a more apt term, since the word
'responsive' suggests a much higher level of care in the
listener, and Pretend Listening reflects that there is an
element of deceit on the part of the listener towards the
speaker. You will generally know when you are Pretend
Listening because the speaker will see that glazed look
in your eyes and say firmly something like, "Will you
please Listen to me. I'm talking to you!" Especially if the
speaker is a small child.
3 Biased Listening
You are listening and taking in a certain amount of
information, but because you already have such firm
opposing or different views, or a resistance to the
speaker, you are not allowing anything that is said or
any noises made to influence your attitude and level of
knowledge and understanding. You are projecting your
position onto the speaker and the words. You would do
this typically because you are under pressure or very
defensive. You would normally be aware that you are
doing this, which is a big difference between the next
level and this one. This third level of listening is also
called Selective Listening in some other models.
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You have an interest and perhaps some flexibility in
respect of the words spoken and your reactions to them,
but because you are not thinking objectively and purely
you are putting your own interpretation on what you are
hearing - making the words fit what you expect or want
them to fit. This is a type of projective listening like level
three above, but you will not normally be aware that you
are doing it until it is pointed out to you. This is a type of
listening that is prone to big risks because if you are not
made aware of your failings you will leave the
discussion under a very wrong impression of the facts
and the feelings of the other person. It's a deluded form
of listening. Arrogant people like politicians and
company directors who surround themselves with
agreeable accomplices can fall into seriously ingrained
habits of Misunderstood Listening.
5 Attentive 'Data-
You listen only to the content, and fail to receive all the
non-verbal sounds and signals, such as tone of voice,
facial expression, reaction of speaker to your own
listening and reactions. This is fine when the purpose of
the communication is merely to gain/convey cold facts
and figures, but it is very inadequate for other
communications requiring an assessment of feelings
and motives, and the circumstances underneath the
superficial words or sounds. Attentive Listening is a
higher level of listening than Misunderstood Listening
because it can gather reliable facts, but it fails to gather
and suitably respond to emotions and feelings, and the
situation of the other person, which is especially risky if
the other person's position is potentially troublesome.
This is a common form of listening among 'push and
persuade' sales people. Attentive Data-Only Listening is
typically driven by a strong personal results motive. It
can be highly manipulative and forceful. This type of
listening wins battles and loses wars - i.e., it can
achieve short-term gains, but tends to wreck chances of
building anything constructive and sustainable.
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6 Active Listening This is listening to words, intonation, and observing
body language and facial expressions, and giving
feedback - but critically this type of listening is empty of
two-way emotional involvement, or empathy. There is no
transmitted sympathy or identification with the other
persons feelings and emotional needs. This listening
gathers facts and to a limited extent feelings too, but
importantly the listener does not incorporate the feelings
into reactions. This can be due to the listener being
limited by policy or rules, or by personal insecurity,
selfishness, or emotional immaturity. Active listening
often includes a manipulative motive or tactics, which
are certainly not present in the empathic level next and
higher, and which is a simple way to differentiate
between Active and Empathic listening.
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You are listening with full attention to the sounds, and all
other relevant signals, including:
• tone of voice
• other verbal aspects - e.g., pace, volume,
breathlessness, flow, style, emphasis
• facial expression
• body language
• cultural or ethnic or other aspects of the person
which would affect the way their communications
and signals are affecting you
• feeling - not contained in a single sense - this
requires you to have an overall collective
appreciation through all relevant senses (taste is
perhaps the only sense not employed here) of
how the other person is feeling
• you able to see and feel the situation from the
other person's position
You are also reacting and giving feedback and checking
understanding with the speaker. You will be
summarising and probably taking notes and agreeing
the notes too if it's an important discussion. You will be
honest in expressing disagreement but at the same time
expressing genuine understanding, which hopefully (if
your listening empathy is of a decent standard) will keep
emotions civilized and emotionally under control even
for very difficult discussions. You will be instinctively or
consciously bringing elements of NLP (neuro-linguistic
programming) and Transactional Analysis into the
exchange. It will also be possible (for one who knows) to
interpret the exchange from the perspective of having
improved the relationship and mutual awareness in
terms of the Johari Window concept.
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This goes beyond even empathic listening because it
implies and requires that you are able to extend an
especially helpful approach to the other person or
people. This element is not necessarily present in
empathic listening. Another crucial difference is the
capability to interpret the cognisance - self-awareness -
of the speaker, and the extent to which you are hearing
and observing genuine 'adult' sounds and signals (as
distinct from emotionally skewed outputs), and to weigh
the consequences of the other person's behaviour even
if the other person cannot. In this respect you are acting
rather like a protector or guardian, in the event that the
other person is not being true to themselves. Eric
Berne's Transactional Analysis theory comes close to
explaining the aspects of mood and 'game-playing'
which many people exhibit a lot unconsciously, and
which can be very difficult notice using only the aims of
and skills within empathic listening. This does not mean
that you are making decisions or recommendations for
the other person - it means you are exercising caution
on their behalf, which is vital if you are in a position of
responsibility or influence towards them. Facilitative
Listening also requires that you have thought and
prepared very carefully about what you will ask and how
you will respond, even if you pause to think and prepare
your responses during the exchange. Many people do
not give themselves adequate pause for thought when
listening and responding at an empathic level.
Facilitative listening contains a strong additional element
of being interested in helping the other person see and
understand their options and choices. It's a powerful
thing. Facilitative Listening is not generally possible if
the circumstances (for example organisational rules and
policy, matters of law, emergency, etc) demand a faster
resolution and offer little or no leeway for extending
help. There is a suggestion of transcendence and self-
actualization - as described in Maslow's Hierarchy of
Needs theory - within the approach to Facilitative
Listening. It is devoid of any selfish personal motive,
other than to extend help, rather than achieve any sort
of normal material gain. The other person's interests are
at the forefront, which cannot truthfully be said of any of
the preceding levels of listening. Facilitative Listening is
not an age or money-related capability. It is an attitude
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