As a Certified Sex Coach, I’m often asked what I do with my clients and/or how I actually work with them. People come up with a lot of amusing pictures in their mind about how I help people. No, I am not a cheerleader providing supportive affirmations or a drill sergeant barking orders from the foot of my client’s bed. I tell people that what I do as a sex coach is similar but different to many other types of coaching, such as life coaching or career coaching.
Coaching is all about helping people live lives of meaning and purpose, and a co-active coaching conversation is not necessarily about solving problems, although that is often the outcome. The authors of the book Co-Active Coaching believe that coaching is “chiefly about discovery, awareness, and choice.” These concepts align with Sex Coach U’s manifesto and vision.
Coaching is mostly about giving permission, education, and specific exercises, as well as helping clients identify their needs, wants, and values, set achievable goals, and reframe unhelpful mindsets. No pom poms or sergeant whistles required.
How Do Coaches Coach?
As the Coaching Skills Coordinator for Sex Coach U, it’s my job to assist sex coaches-in-training on how to coach. I like to say this is a process of learning to get the words in their minds out of their mouths. One of our textbooks, Co-Active Coaching by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, and Phillip Sandahl defines coaching as having five contexts:
- Forward and Deepen
The coach brings each of these contexts to the coaching relationship with the client. And while most people have the ability to tap into these contexts, I teach students that great coaches hone these skills like a professional musician develops their musical technique.
The book notes that all five contexts are always being used simultaneously, rather than in a linear sequence. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus my attention on the skill of Listening. Look for upcoming posts about the other four aspects soon!
Listening Is The Entry Point For All Coaching.
Most people take conversation for granted. One person is talking, and another person is listening. However, when someone focuses all of their attention on what you have to say, you realize how rare an experience it is to be truly listened to.
Listening is a skill that everyone is capable of, but a talented coach utilizes their listening skills differently from the rest of the world. Most people don’t listen at a very deep level. Co-Active Coaching notes that people “listen mostly to the words” the person they’re speaking with uses or they “hear the words, and then disconnect from the conversation while we process the words internally. We start to think about what we will say next.” People who become coaches tend to be gifted listeners, but listening as a coach isn’t passive: “There is action in listening.”
How Do We Listen?
Co-Active Coaching identifies three levels of listening. Level 1 listening is the only way many people have conversations. This level of listening is self focused: how does whatever the speaker is saying affect ME (my emotions, my thoughts, my judgments, and my conclusions). Level 1 listening is what we want our clients to be doing while in session with us.
But as coaches, we want to make sure that our listening and awareness is focused on them.
This can be difficult for new coaches to master because they so desperately want to help by giving clients the answers they yearn for. Sometimes coaches stop listening and start to focus on crafting a beautiful and profound response before the client has even stopped talking. Novice coaches think they know the answer, sometimes before the client has even formed the question.
Level 2 listening is deeper. This level keeps a sharp focus on the other person. Awareness of the outside world seems to fade and the conversation would appear quite intense from an outside observer’s perspective. A coach not only listens intently to the words the client is saying, but they’re also aware of the client’s micro-expressions, their body language, how they are rushing or slowing their words, or avoiding certain phrases.
Level 2 listening incorporates hearing the client’s values and visions, and to reference Sex Coach U’s MEBES model, the coach recognizes the client’s Energy and Spirit. The coach is aware of and mirrors back the energy that the client provides without judging it. This requires empathy and understanding. The coach is not trying to figure out their next move at this level of listening. In fact, most of their mental chatter should be fairly quiet as they focus on the client’s tone, pace, and feelings expressed as they speak. If they become aware of their own internal monologue, it’s an indication that they are back in Level 1 listening and should refocus.
Level 3 listening is what’s known in the book as “Global Listening.” It’s not only listening with your ears, but all of your sensesーnot only tactile, but emotional and energetic. Most people don’t have the communication skills to listen at this level intentionally. It needs to be learned and practiced because it requires intuition.
While using Level 3 listening, the coach is softly focused on all of the information and energy in the space and is able to use it as an element of the coaching session as readily as the words being spoken by the client. The coach might notice a shift in the energy of the client (or even the room). If they trust their senses enough, they might mention it to the client, saying “My gut tells me something changed in your energy as you were telling that story. What’s that about?”
The client may pause and consider what they were saying and realize that, yes, their energy changed without them even realizing it had happened. The power of Level 3 coaching often precipitates an “Ah-ha” moment for the client. These moments tend to feel profound to both the client and the coach. It’s where the power of excellent coaching really becomes evident!
Levels Of Listening Skills
Co-Active Coaching explains that different listening skills are associated with Levels 2 and 3. Those skills are articulating, clarifying, having a meta-view, using metaphors, and acknowledging. Each skill works in tandem with the others; however, coaches might recognize some skills are easier for them to use than others.
When coaches articulate what they hear their client saying, they help their client connect the dots so they can see the bigger picture of their life more clearly, rather than the details that they may be stuck hyperfocusing on.
Alternatively, taking a meta-view might be necessary. Helping the client look at their issue from a “proverbial distance” to get a fresh perspective.
When clients ramble on and share a lot of exposition that doesn’t have to do with their stated agenda, coaches might utilize the skill of clarifying.
Using metaphors as a listening skill allows the coach to “draw on imagery and experience to help the client comprehend faster and more easily.” It’s also an easy way for coaches to articulate or clarify without being attached to their observations or feedback.
Finally, acknowledging the client as a form of Level 2 and 3 listening allows the client to feel truly heard and seen by the coach. It’s positive proof of the empathy and support the coach is offering.
The book makes a solid point of noting the difference between complimenting the client for things they do versus acknowledging them for living in their values. It provides an opportunity to the client to “be more resourceful in the future, because they recognize the truth…illuminated” by the coach.
As sex coaches, we want to help people live lives of meaning and purpose. Active listening to our clients discuss the topics that are on the top of their mind might lead to admissions of heavy and deep desires of their heart. Our conversations are not necessarily about solving problems, although that is often the outcome.
Often our clients feel tremendous relief and gratitude to us for simply being able to actively and effectively listen to them. We help them discover unexplored aspects about themselves, bring awareness to their values and rhetoric, and identify the choices they didn’t realize they have. By using Level 2 and 3 listening styles, we help our clients reach goals without the help of any pompoms or drill sergeant whistles.
Curious about training to become a Certified Sex Coach™? Join the next live Info Session to meet the SCU team and participate in a live Q&A!