Practising the art of listening and understanding

"Coach Kriengsak, last time I told you that I wanted to practise coaching my team. For the past three weeks, I have already coached three people. Let me tell you my experience."

After he briefly tells me, I ask: “Khun Chai, tell me three things you did well?”

“Coach Kriengsak, I listened more. I was better at understanding each individual style. And I asked more good questions.”

“You did well on listening, understanding each individual style and asked more good questions.”

He nods.

“Khun Chai, nobody is perfect. Making mistakes is part of learning. What is one thing you think you could do better?”

“I think I was not good at summarising what I heard.”

“You are an analytical person. Let’s use your analytical talent on this subject. If you analyse yourself, what made you not good at summarising?”

“Coach, there were two reasons. First, I think I assumed I understood what I heard. Second, I wanted to move on with my agenda — I was impatient.”

“Can I name them as jumping to conclusions and impatience? What percentage would each be?”

“I think 50-50.”

“Let work on them. Which one first?”

“Jumping to conclusions.”

“Good. How do you plan to prevent yourself from jumping to conclusions?”

“I think I have to remind myself before and during the coaching that I will not really understand the individual. I have to ensure that I summarise back as a check for understanding.

“Once I’m conscious of this, I can pay attention fully. And when I’ve paid full attention, I will be able to summarise back.”

“Khun Chai, you plan to have a better self-awareness by reminding yourself before and during the coaching. Then you will gather more information and be able to reflect back.”

“That’s a good summary.”

“How do you ensure you will really do what you just said?”

“Coach, from now on I will practise summarising my conversations with people. I will remind myself before talking with anyone that I must summarise at least once what we talked about. Then I will evaluate myself on how well I did.”

“You want to practise with everyone. That’s quite a commitment.”

“Thank you, Coach. I think I will practise it with you first. Will you help me?”

“Of course. Let’s practise by role-playing. You will be the coach and I will be the one you’re coaching. The focus for you in this role-playing is to practise summarising at least once.”

He nods. “Khun Kriengsak, what dilemma would you like to talk about today?”

“Coach Chai, I have a goal that by the end of 2024 I want to see 10 million Thais able to ask good questions.”

“Khun Kriengsak, in the next 10 years, you want to see 10 million Thais be good at coaching. Is that right?” He smiles with pride.

“No. That’s not what I meant. You got it right on 10 million Thais and the next 10 years. But I wanted them to ask good questions, not be good at coaching.”

He re-summarises, this time accurately and completely. Then he asks a follow-up question:

“Khun Kriengsak, what do you think you will do to achieve that goal?”

“Coach Chai, I am thinking about using all kinds of media to promote the idea: television, newspapers, cable TV, Facebook, YouTube and seminars.”

“Let me recap what I heard. You plan to use several media to promote the idea: TV, newspapers, cable TV, Facebook...”

I interrupt him. “Coach Chai, when I listened to you summarising my thoughts, I realised that I was so stupid. I had a big dream and I jumped to wanting to take action without considering other critical factors first.

“I just had an insight that for a large-scale project like this, I think I need to come up with several great questions before taking any action. I think we should focus on what questions I need to answer first in order to achieve the goal.”

“Khun Kriengsak, that’s great. Now I’m realising that good summarising is not only for me to understand better, but also to help the person coached have insight — before the coach asks any question.”

“Khun Chai, I think you did well in practising summarising. We’ll stop role-playing now. Let’s try it with others and discuss it at the next session.”


Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at coachkriengsak@yahoo.com. Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/TheCoachinth. Previous articles are archived at http://thecoach.in.th

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