Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How Does a Coach Listen?

Creativity and finding new paths requires listening to what is and imagining what could be...
T-Shirt seen on the streets of Bath, Maine Summer 2015

“Active Listening” is a familiar term. In general, it describes listening that requires effort by the listener to be attentive, use body language to communicate that attentiveness, and restate or summarize what is heard and understood.

This type of listening is important for coaches. But is being actively attentive enough to help our clients find new perspective and awareness, to break out of their current reality to see future possibilities? What does active listening mean for coaches?

The ICF defines Active Listening as “The ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client's desires, and to support client self-expression.”

To me, a coach listens beyond and around what the client is sharing, tuning into patterns of thought; topics skipped over or avoided; shifts in emotions, tone or energy; charged words, phrases or metaphors; incongruities between words, emotions, and body. The coach also listens to her own experience of the client, noticing her own shifts in energy, focus, and the curious questions that bubble up inside her.   Listening in this way allows us to find paths to explore that the client may not have seen on their own.

Our listening creates the space for our client to talk, reflect, and explore. It impacts the quality of our questions and observations.  It sets the direction we use to guide the coaching conversation.
What is your understanding of “Active Listening” for coaches? If you were observing a coach, how would you know the quality of their listening? How do you know if you are listening at your best?

Upcoming Events:

I will be a speaker at the March 14  ICF New England, Maine Affiliate event in Portland. You can register through the events page on ICFNE website -

The Coaches Master Class starts at the end of January and again in March. Email me if you're interested in joining this small group learning experience.

I offer Mentor Coaching to meet your credential requirements, tune-up your coaching, and prepare for the Coach Knowledge Exam for ICF. We'll design a program that works for you!


  1. YES! I think of coaching as a full-body experience, taking note of not only what I hear and see (or gather through other senses), but what my body and intuition tell me. I find that when I am at my best, I am fully open to receive what needs to emerge in order to facilitate the client's clarity and wisdom.

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