Every coach I’ve met assumes he or she is a good listener. Having coached coaches, however, I can say that self-perception and reality sometimes diverge. To ensure the reality gap doesn’t apply to you, I encourage you to adopt the EAR method and convert it to habit.
The EAR Listening Method
The EAR method is a three-step process. “E” stands for “explore,” “A” stands for “acknowledge,” and “R” stands for “respond.”
It’s a sequence. You “explore” with open-ended questions followed by probing and prodding. “What …?” “How …?” “What else?” “Please share an example.” “Help me understand.” “Anything else?”
“E” questions are curiosity-based where you’re genuinely trying to find out what the other person thinks. They’re not cross-examination questions – “Isn’t it true that . . .?” Your questions should not state or imply your view.
Once you’ve explored the other person’s position, move to “acknowledge.” Get the person to acknowledge that you understand him or her, not the other way around. “If I understand you correctly . . .. Is that accurate?”
If the person says “No, that’s not my position,” you simply go back to the “E.” “I’m sorry. Please explain what I missed.”
After you’ve confirmed with the other person his or her position, you’re ready to “respond.” How you respond is totally up to you. The key is that by following this sequence your response will be (a) more thoughtful; (b) more likely to be received well; and (c) not derailed by an erroneous assumption (which I pronounce “ASSumption.”)
Elsewhere, I’ve described the Three Realities. By consciously adopting the EAR method, I’m confident that your perception of yourself as a good listener will match both reality and how you’re perceived by the people you coach.