A framework for listening

Listening is a complex activity and a skill that takes place on many levels.

Active listening means that you are listening with purpose and communicating that you have listened

One framework for listening

1. Experiences – what clients experience as happening to them;what others say or do not say;what others do or do not do

2.Behaviour – how clients act;what they say and do

3. Feelings – what clients feel about their experiences and their behaviour

4. Thoughts – what clients understand about what they do or do not do ; what sense they make of their own and others behaviour ; and what beliefs they have about themselves, other people and events in their lives.


Listening blocks

1. Preparing your reply to what the client is saying

2. Seeking confirmation for your hypotheses and ignoring information from the client which contradicts these hypotheses

3. Possibly becoming defensive or labelling yoursel inadequate when clients attempt to correct you

4. Trying to find a solution because you have an action oriented personality

5. Becoming anxious about what the client is telling you


In general

Listening attentively with an awareness of the filters you have and the universe of your own life is the basis for understanding clients. However while listening is important it is not enough. Clients need more. They need aresponse to show that they are being heard and understood.

Some ways of responding

Reflective skills

Reflective skills enable you to communicate your understanding of your clients frame of reference. This internal frame of reference is how clients view themselves and their concerns.

Probing skills normally express the coaches perspective or external frame of reference. When this is happening a coach is seeking information or wanting to influence the direction of the session

Reflective skills are probably the most useful group of skills to:

Build trust

Encouraging exploration

Discouraging premature focusing

Communicating emphatic understanding

A key aim is to

better understand clients’  thinking and feeling

To check in a non intrusive that you have understood

To impose minimal direction from your frame of reference

In other words offer back to the client what they have said in their own words

Three key reflective skills are






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