Listening to Nancy Kline

I was fortunate to have the privilege of listening to the inspirational Nancy Kline’s talk at the Association for Coaching Conference on September 10th.

I was inspired by her brilliant book ‘Time to Think’ and was really looking forward to hearing her speak. What impressed me immediately was her ability to engage the audience and hold the room. She has a wonderful, authentic presence that perfectly models the values and behaviours that she is so passionate about. She just talked from the heart, quietly and gently, but with absolute certainty and conviction and she held everyone in rapt attention, underlining the importance of what she was saying with simple, but compelling stories.

I was reminded of the Ghandi quote, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

She actually had a very challenging message – that coaches talk too much and get in the way of their clients’ thinking. That is quite tough to absorb – that maybe there is more value in what you don’t do than what you do. Yet I don’t think there was a person in the room who didn’t ‘get’ it and I’m sure will have been reflecting on their practice since. Quite an achievement, to bypass our collective defensiveness so that we could explore the possibilities of her message with curiosity and creativity.

On reflection I think this was because although she was the speaker, her attention was actively and completely focused on us, the audience, and this was reflected back to her. She helped us to be better listeners because she is such a fantastic listener herself, and that enabled everyone there to absorb her message.

These quotes were particular highlights for me.

The first is a great reminder each time we are tempted to make an input – ‘How can I be sure that what I am about to say is going to add more value than what my client/colleague/friend is going to think?’

The second helps us to remember just how much we are relying on assumption – ‘For every 30 words a person speaks they think 300; and yet we deal with the 10% as if it was 100%’.

And the one which I personally found most thought provoking – ‘We leave by speaking’, because each time we speak we run the risk of exiting the dialogue by breaking our focus and attention on the most important person, our colleague, client or friend.

I would really encourage you to explore Nancy’s writing if you haven’t discovered her so far, her ideas will create a more creative, compassionate world.

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