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Plain Old Listening and Active Listening

Can you hear me now?



We work to build relationships within our coaching sessions, and we do a lot of listening as part of that process. Listening is a key component of coaching at the Health & Wellness Collaborative, and of building any respectful relationship. Did you know that there is a difference between regular listening and the mindful and active listening which we utilize? This post will run through some of these differences.


Doug Silsbee (The Mindful Coach, 2010) describes 3 levels of listening. In general, the levels can be thought of as:

· Level I—listening, but thinking ahead to what you want to say next and more focus on you.

· Level II—focused on the speaker, but little awareness otherwise.

· Level III—focused on the speaker’s words, body language, and tone of voice to gain deeper understanding of what they are trying to express.


A Level I listener gets distracted from what the speaker is saying. The listener is already thinking about what their answer might be, is distracted by something in the surrounding environment or their phone and they divert their eyes from the speaker. Their body language perhaps indicates that they are anxious to move on with the conversation. Have you been this listener at some point? Your attention was on yourself and we have all been there.


Now let’s shift a bit to a Level II listener. This person, according to Silsbee, is very focused on the speaker. However, there is little to no awareness of what else is happening in that moment with regard to other important aspects of the experience either for the speaker or the listener. It might be described as a hyper-focused situation.


Mindful and active listening in Level III creates an entirely different experience. It is about listening to the other person mindfully with our whole self. It is bringing full awareness (body, mind, and spirit) to those moments of conversation which in turn creates a mindful presence. It is listening without judgement and agenda and it provides a safe space of openness. This active listening involves listening for a variety of elements from the speaker’s story which might include core values, challenges, strengths, significant experiences, goals, or dreams for the future (Moore and Moore, 2010).


Which level of listening feels the best to you? How would you liked to be listened to within a conversation?


In our coaching sessions, you will experience Level III listening. We will signal our level of mindful and active listening by periodically summarizing your story, providing reflections back to you and asking deeper questions.


At the Health & Wellness Collaborative we look forward to mindful conversations with you.


Coaching Psychology Manual. (2010). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

The Mindful Coach: Seven roles for facilitating leader development. (2010). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

© 2018, 2019, 2020 Healthy Connections Coaching, LLC and KLS Consulting LLC.

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