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Heart Coach Institute

Gaye Kuelsen, PCC • August 17, 2022 • 4 Minute Read

Listening Actively 

You may be aware that the ICF recently announced that from 1st August 2022, any new applications for the ACCPCC, and MCC will be assessed using the updated application pathways. As we move closer to using the Updated ICF Core Competencies model, this month we will focus on the sixth competency:

6.Listens Actively
Definition: Focuses on what the client is and is not saying to fully understand what is being communicated in the context of the client systems and to support client self-expression

1.  Considers the client’s context, identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs to enhance understanding of what the client is communicating 

This is essentially the most important competency for a coach.  When we listen actively to our clients, we are hearing to totally understand their own uniqueness.  Without this understanding, it is impossible to help our client move forward or gain greater clarity. The greatest gift we can bestow on our clients, is for them to feel totally heard, that we understand and acknowledge what they have shared with us. We also help our clients to hear themselves and to interrupt their thinking so they can gain another perspective or greater self-awareness. There is now a greater emphasis on the consideration of our client’s individual and unique identity, values, opinions and ideas.  As the coaching relationship develops, with deepening trust, we learn more about our clients which enable us to adapt and be more flexible in our approach to coaching.

2.  Reflects or summarizes what the client communicated to ensure clarity and understanding 

There are a number of ways we can reflect back to our clients, to confirm to them we understand.  We may simply mirror back what they have shared, or succinctly summarise what we believe we have heard, or ask questions to enquire or clarify so that we are confident we have total understanding.  In this way we are fully participating in this coaching partnership, not only with our ears, but also with ourselves.  Looking at the words in this competency – Considers, reflects, recognises, notices and integrates – puts the emphasis on the coach to be an active, not a passive listener.

3.  Recognizes and inquires when there is more to what the client is communicating 

With intentional listening we become attuned with our client, so that we notice the nuances, and ask questions to go deeper into exploration.  From time to time, tap into your intuition to gauge what is coming up for you.  These feelings and sensations will help you identify what is not being said or being avoided by the client, or to recognise any disconnect with the client’s words and body language or energy.  This is the time to slow down, and as the coach you can subtly influence this by slowing down your own pace of speech.  Also, with permission you may ask the client to pause, so they may think further, or pose a question for their reflection.  Inviting your client to take a deep breath, can support them connect into their body and create a bridge into a new and deeper understanding about who they are and what they want.

4.  Notices, acknowledges and explores the client’s emotions, energy shifts, non-verbal cues or other behaviours 

When we notice, acknowledge and explore with our client, we move from coaching the problem (the what) to coaching the person (the who).  Often this is where the missed opportunities arise, when the coach is not paying close attention to the client as a whole person, or is uncomfortable in the space of emotions and energy.  Being a courageous coach can be simple and easy.  When you notice that a client suddenly becomes animated and joyful about what they are sharing, when previously they seemed unhappy, then reflect that back to them and invite them to share what they notice.

5.  Integrates the client’s words, tone of voice and body language to determine the full meaning of what is being communicated

When listening actively to your client, take note of their keywords, which can be very useful during the coaching conversation.  If you are unsure of the context when the client uses a certain word, ask for clarity, so that you both have the same understanding.  Also, using the client’s keywords in your questions helps to ease communication and creates alignment.  You may also challenge the words that your client uses to describe themselves.  One word I often challenge is ‘lazy’ as I’ve yet to find a client who comes willingly to coaching as a lazy person!  Being able to change their self-talk does have a profound effect on each individual.  When you notice a disconnect with your client’s words and their behaviour, bring that to their notice, and ask – Help me to understand how to connect these two parts?

6. Notices trends in the client’s behaviours and emotions across sessions to discern themes and patterns

As a coach, this is a great skill which will tremendously serve your clients. Being your client’s observer, standing slightly apart from their situation and their life, you are in a wonderful position to see what they don’t see and to sense what they don’t realise. At one time, my coach shared with me that I never finish a sentence when I’m upset and I constantly, and erratically, jump from one thought or idea to another. I had never realised that I engaged in that behaviour! This was a turning point for me, as when this happened in future, I was quickly aware of my situation and would pause and breath, before deciding my next step. This also assisted my coach, as she was able to slow me down, so I’d complete my sentences, making it easier to coach (and understand) me! Uncovering these patterns and themes for our clients is like parting the clouds so their reality is revealed to them.

I enjoy sharing these mentoring moments with you,


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