For 2021 and beyond, The International Coach Federation has revised its Core Competencies from twelve eight. However, one core competency has not changed, which underscores its importance to Christin life coaching: Listens Actively.
Under core competency #6, Listens Actively, the ICF states the following1:
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
Considers the client’s context, identity, environment, experiences, values and beliefs to enhance understanding of what the client is communicating
Reflects or summarizes what the client communicated to ensure clarity and understanding
Recognizes and inquires when there is more to what the client is communicating
Notices, acknowledges and explores the client’s emotions, energy shifts, non-verbal cues or other behaviors
Integrates the client’s words, tone of voice and body language to determine the full meaning of what is being communicated
Notices trends in the client’s behaviors and emotions across sessions to discern themes and patterns
For Christian life coaches, listening actively is a way of listening and responding to the coachee in a way that improves mutual understanding. Often when people talk to each other, they are often distracted, half listening, half thinking about something else. For example, when individuals are engaged in a conflict, they are often busy formulating a response to what is being said. They assume that they have heard what their opponent is saying many times before, and rather than paying attention, they focus on how they can respond to win the argument.
Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. From a biblical coaching perspective, the Christian life coach must take care to attend to their coachee fully, and then be able to repeat, using their own words, what he or she thinks the coachee has said. The life coach does not have to agree with the coachee; they must simply state what they think the coachee say. This enables the coachee to find out whether the coach really understood.
Following the best life coaching practice, the coach should note and repeat any feelings the coachee states. Thus, instead of just repeating what happened, the spiritual life coach might say, “I heard you say that you felt angry or frustrated or confused when…” This gives the coachee the opportunity to go beyond confirming what the coach heard, by adding any details they may want to share.
Listening Actively has several benefits. First, it forces coach to listen attentively to their coachee. Second, it avoids misunderstandings, as coach confirms that they do really understand what the coachee has said. Third, it allows the coachee to open up and say more.
“Listens Actively” Skills
As a confident Christian life coach, you want to be competent in your “Listens Actively” skills. The best life coaching programs will show models that develop your listening skills. Here are a few for you to consider.
You can give your coachee your full attention by:
A: maintain eye contact
B: maintaining good posture
C: using appropriate facial and hand gestures
This is a five-step acronym that will help you listen actively:
Squarely face your coachee
Open your posture to create a welcoming atmosphere
Lean towards the coachee when appropriate
Eye contact maintained but not to the point of staring
Relax while listening and speaking
Paraphrasing is a skill the enhances the ability to Listen Actively. Paraphrasing means to restate what the coachee is saying but usually with fewer words. It is a way for the Spiritual life coach to summarize and get to a point the coachee is making.
To test your understanding of what you heard.
To communicate that you are trying to understand what is being said. If you’re successful, paraphrasing indicates that you are tracking what your coachee is saying, and you understand what they are saying.
When listening asking yourself:
- What is the speaker’s basic thinking message?
- What is the person’s basic feeling message?
Coachee: I just don’t understand, one minute she tells me to do this, and the next minute to do that.
Coach: I hear you saying that she really confuses you.
Coachee: I really think she is a great boss. She’s thoughtful, sensitive, and kind, and we have lotos of fun at work.
X: It sounds like the two of you have a great working relationship.
Clarifying is the process of bringing a vague conversation into sharper focus.
- To untangle unclear or wrong listener interpretation.
- To get more information
- To help the speaker see other points of view
- To identify what was said
I’m confused, let me try to sate what I think you were trying to say.
You’ve said so much, let me see if I’ve got it all.
As a Christian life coach, you know the importance of the gift of discernment. Perception checking is a way for you to make sure your perceptions—your discernment—is correct.
To give and receive feedback
To check out your assumptions
Let me see if I’ve got it straight. You said that you love your job and you wouldn’t want to leave your place of employment. At the same time, you can’t stand what goes on during your work day.
Summarizing is pulling together, organizing, and integrating the main points of the coaching conversation. As a spiritual life coach, you want to pay attention various themes and emotional overtones. You connect ideas and feelings into broad statements. However, you do not add new ideas or your own understanding.
- To give a sense of movement and accomplishment in the exchange
- To establish a basis for further discussion.
- Pull together major ideas, facts, and feelings
Coach: “You’ve stated a number of things that you like and don’t like about your marriage. Allow me to recap so that I’m hearing you clearly.”
Coach: “You’ve talked about a lot of things so far. If I understand you correctly, you are saying…”
Empathy is a key “compassion tool” that all good spiritual life coaches possess. Primary empathy is a reflection of content and feelings
To show that you understand your coachee’s experience
To allow the coachee to evaluate their feelings after hearing you express them
You feel (state feeling) because (state content)
Coachee I just don’t know how I am going to get everything done in time. I’m afraid that everyone will hate me if I let them down.
Coach: I hear your feelings of frustration. It’s so tough when everything depends upon you.
Coachee: If things don’t get better, I’m afraid of losing this relationship.
Coach: I can hear how important this relationship is to you.
Advanced empathy is a skill that all Christian life coaches should develop. It is a reflection of what is being said and felt by the coachee at a deeper level.
To understand what the coachee is feeling on a deeper level.
Coach: I get the sense that you are really angry about what was said, but I am wondering if you also feel a little hurt by it.
Coach: You said that you feel more confident about contacting employers, but I wonder if you also still feel a bit scared.
By including the Actively Listens skills as one of its core competencies, the International Coach Federation is stressing to all coaches—especially Christian life coaches—how important this skillset is. ICF accredited programs include a study of the eight core competencies, and the best Christian life coaching programs will stress the importance of active listening to their participants.