Listening to other people’s conversations

Over the coming months I’ll be writing about my experiences as a student in the Coaching for Transformation program run by Leadership That Works. It’s a 9 month program for coaches from all backgrounds to level up their skills and attain their international coaching certification.

As you’d expect, a key part of the DNA of the course is aligned with that of a coach; specifics are confidential and absolutely not to be shared in a public forum.

However, there are plenty of more general concepts and ideas I’ve already picked up, and I hope these posts will provide some interesting insights into exploring a new set of skills and also understanding just a little bit more about the human condition.


The program’s first in-person session was more transformative for me than I expected.

In one of the exercises we were asked to observe a coaching session between one of the teachers and a fellow student and write down what we noticed.

Over the course of their 20 minute conversation I felt myself swaying in and out of focus, struggling to make sense of everything that was going on.

Later I realised this feeling came from a combination of things, some connected to old feelings about school and authority, and others from my attention span and most commonly used methods of learning (yep, they’re all connected).

Towards the end of the coaching conversation, as I attempted to tune myself in to what felt like an elusive AM radio signal on a late night rainy car drive, an image appeared in my mind.

First it was me standing in a music festival between two stages side by side, competing for attention.

Then it became clearer — it was just one stage.

An open air gig, with an intriguing and enigmatic singer on stage.

The singer had a backing band made up of seasoned session players — those unsung heroes who have seen it all and spend their careers quietly adding their pencil lined signature to incredible songs brought into the limelight by others.

I tried to listen to the singer — their words, timbre, and hidden meanings between the lines and the verses.

I felt my attention going to the backing band — the rhythm giving space and structure to the song that was in session.

I couldn’t help but notice the bass player standing out, spinning subtle variety in the loops and grooves.

Then I realised why I was there.

It wasn’t just to enjoy the song, appreciate the singer, or recognise the skills of the band.

I was there to learn the bass, then the melody, then the words, then the meaning.

And there it was — the challenge of listening to conversations from multiple angles, multiple levels of understanding, with a differently trained ear.

There’s still nothing to stop you enjoying music of course, but once you’ve understood it from that new perspective it never quite sounds the same, and the new possibilities are endless — even when you fall out of key every so often.

After all, none of us can play it perfect every time. We just keep practicing, listening and playing the best way we can.

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