The Art of Listening - an important coach skill

The Art of Listening, The Foundational Coaching Skill

Happy New Year!  In this series of Vigour’s “Coach Tips,” a different coaching skill will be discussed every month.  The discussion will include recommended books to read as well as tips to immediately apply to your daily life and work routine to help strengthen the skill.

If I was to rank all coaching skills, listening would be at the top of the list.  The art of listening is foundational to any effective communication and without it, none of the other skills matter.  I call listening an “art” because in this age of technology and social media, we are constantly bombarded with distractions that take away from our ability to truly listen to what others have to say.

Quote: Listening is the gateway through which all the coaching passes

The good news it that listening is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with increased awareness and a desire to change.  Two books that talk about listening skills that have had the most positive impact on me are:

Covey’s habit #5, “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” is about listening with the intent to understand rather than to respond (p. 237, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).  This requires a higher level of listening than how we might normally find ourselves listening throughout the day.  It requires what Covey calls “empathic listening,” listening not only with your ears but with your eyes and heart as well.  This focused listening requires that you “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” in order to understand their frame of reference.  To truly be a good listener, you must take the time to understand their perspective, before sharing yours.

Quote: When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological airIn Co-Active Coaching, the highest level of listening is global or environmental listening.  This is similar to what Covey calls “empathic listening” where you notice the energy level and emotions, not just the words being spoken.

So how do we work towards listening in a more focused way?  There is a listening exercise that my kids learned in school that can be used by adults too, and it’s called the “STOP, LOOK and LISTEN” exercise.  When someone asks you a question, STOP what you are doing, removing all distractions, so that you can focus on them.  Then LOOK at them, maintaining eye contact and observing any emotions or body language.  You are then ready to LISTEN in a more focused manner.

If listening is a skill that you would like to strengthen, I encourage you to try these steps over the next while, and let me know how it works for you.  If you have any other tips or exercises that you would like to share, please do so in the comments section below.

All the Best in 2017,


Bev Bourque, MIR, BComm., CPCC, ACC
Professional Coach & HR Consultant, Vigour Coaching
c: 587.646.3799 e:






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4 thoughts on “The Art of Listening, The Foundational Coaching Skill”

  1. Jennifer Bodenham

    Wonderful post Bev!! It brought me back to the days we taught Covey together – such FUN! I agree, listening is an art, and unfortunately it feels like a “lost” art some days. In my coaching classes recently I have been having them do exercises where they are practicing “mindful listening” where they are not allowed to utter a word for the entire exercise (only using facial expressions to show they are listening or to encourage them). It is such a great exercise. I miss you! Jen xoxo

    1. Thank you Jen for sharing the mindful listening exercise! What a great way to work on becoming more comfortable with silence, and not having to always be thinking about what to say next.

      It was so much fun teaching the 7 Habits together — we made a great team! Miss you too!!

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