Have you ever wondered how good a listener you are? I must admit that I always thought I was rather good at it, fuelled by many adventure holidays where strangers would tell me their inner thoughts about their life. It happened so often that my friends started calling me the nugget gatherer. I felt quite chuffed with the nickname. After all who doesn’t want to be associated with good listening? It never occurred to me to think about the quality of my listening. Surely the fact that I was silent and nodding, showed I was listening? It didn’t matter if my mind was wandering, running through all the things that I had to do, wondering where the hell the conversation was going, even dare I say it, tapping an email at the same time. And then I started my coaching qualification and reality hit home. I was the lowest of the low listeners. Distracted, present but not present, caught in my agenda not the person’s in front of me. Through my studies I’ve come to appreciate just how hard being a good listener is and that several models point to three levels of listening; peripheral, apparent and active (Parsloe & Wray classification, Coaching & Mentoring). Active listening is where you hear what the person says, why they are saying it and what they are not saying. It sounds easy right? Wrong! It requires you to be at your best, your brain to be in gear and your mental processes to interpret what you are hearing. You need to clear your mind of all your thoughts, remove all physical distractions, sit or stand straight, concentrate with your ears and your eyes and want to be interested in what the other person is saying. When I run through that checklist and then reflect on the many one to one’s I’ve had with my colleagues over the years I owe them all a huge apology! Over the course of my coaching training I know I am getting closer to being an active listener. I prepare my mind better, I notice immediately when my thoughts start to wonder and rein myself back in, I’ve become more skilled at noticing what is not being said. And I am picking up a lot more insight and asking more powerful questions. These skills have proved vital working at Conker, actively listening to client needs and finding the best candidates. So next time you sit down with someone, ask yourself am I hearing them or am I listening to them?