The Relationship Journey – Active Listening

Here is the third of a series of brief blogs introducing The Relationship Journey in my chapter on Active Listening from The Journey Inside.

The Relationship Journey

These two words, particularly trust, are words that we normally use without that much thought, or what they actually mean. Yet both of them have a significant impact on how we ‘show up’ in the world and ‘make sense’ of it all. In relationships, these play out in many different ways.

In The Relationship Journey, positive or good intention is vital in enabling trust to be built, developed, and maintained. At each step on the journey, the same level of intention is required, otherwise, trust gets halted or stumbles. We all know that feeling of, “Something is just not right, I can’t quite put my finger on it”.

Our sudden loss of trust can be as a result of them missing out on some of the steps. It can cause an emotional disturbance in us, such that we start to question their intention.

For example, on your first meeting, the coach is doing his best to get to know you; you open up a little about yourself, the business, and the issues you are facing. You are starting to relax, feeling more at ease, maybe even warming to them. He is listening well to you. Slowly you begin to trust him more.

Then, all of a sudden, the coach proposes a solution, a course of sessions, or what you should do next. You get the feeling that he thinks he has ‘got you’. Whilst well-meaning, on some levels, this jump has caused a level of disruption in you, such that you begin to question his intention. Is he really interested in you and your issues or are you just part of the process and he is just going through the motions? You may feel uneasy, threatened, and uncertain. Unless he recovers quickly, this meeting is not going to end well. In fact, he may not be able to recover it.

How much better if he had taken his time, walked with you through all of the steps, such that you reach the point where you start to propose the next steps or are asking, “What next then?”


Colin D. Smith
Colin D. Smith
COLIN is ‘The Listener’, a listening skills specialist and the ‘go-to’ person for individuals and teams who want to be heard, think for themselves, and transform their business and personal relationships through active listening. Colin has that innate ability to actively listen to people. He works with management, project and creative teams, facilitating the development and improvement of their listening and thinking skills. Thereby equipping them to more effectively meet their business, relationship and service challenges. He also works privately with individuals, enabling them to feel heard and valued, to think more clearly for themselves, articulate their creative ideas, address their personal concerns, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Colin has had a varied and successful career in consultancy, business development, IT and customer support, across many sectors, including finance, motor, retail and the NHS. In looking back he realises that much of his success was due to his listening and connecting abilities. His inquisitive and curious mind also enables him to explore, with others, unusual, thought-provoking, yet grounded, observations and alternative approaches to business, people, systems, and change. To make things happen, and to take ideas and thinking further, he connects his Clients with his trusted network of entrepreneurs, consultants, thought leaders, free thinkers, coaches and change makers.

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  1. Thank you Aldo for sharing your thinking.

    If I consider how I respond to what people are saying when I am listening, it is more in my facial expression, rather than verbal. I seek to be the listener, such that any response is natural and in response to what they are saying. When we try and ‘respond’ to what they are saying it will be slightly delayed and likely to be interpreted that way by the speaker and they may reveal less as a result.

    In some cases, I know those who give nothing facially or from their body. For some that is fine, they like the blankness of it, others find it off-putting and uncomfortable, and may struggle to speak properly because they can’t understand why the words they are saying are not ‘landing’ on the listener.

    For me, therefore, it depends, and each situation is different. Maybe a more neutral face, and an inner intention that we are curious, interested and human, and that we want to be encouraging them to speak more.


  2. The aspect that most impressed me (when I became interested in the topic many years ago) is that it is essential to avoid expressing any judgment about what is said (content of the message), or towards the interlocutor himself. A common tendency when listening is, in fact, that of reacting with judgments of various kinds. In particular, if the assessment is negative, we will tend to reject the message as inaccurate or false and we will focus on formulating a response rather than understanding what we are told. Often, in this case, much of what we are told remains completely unheard.