Kim Avery Coaching

Intentional Listening

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Last Sunday afternoon took us so far into the Dorset countryside that listening took on a new meaning; the peace and stillness left little to hear. But wait! Surely there is some distant noise from the busyness of holiday traffic, passenger jets laden with summer holidaymakers, children playing in back gardens, or even protesting cattle being moved from their favourite fields?

As hearing first gave way to intentional listening it seemed that there was no sound at all.

View of field

View over Dorset countryside

Nothing. Completely quiet.

Then, as if taking their entrance in turn onto a theatre stage, the gentle rustle of wind through the forest was followed by the call of kites circling high above their unsuspecting prey, then a blackbird’s song, then dry leaves being thrown aside by a nearby sparrow.

After just a few minutes the air was filled with peaceful sounds (can you have peaceful sounds?) – they were there all the time, but beyond our awareness. Every sound conveyed its unique significance, no less meaningful than the absence of other sounds.

How Coaches listen

Such sounds are around us all the time, drowned out not just by distractions, but by our approach to listening. While it wouldn’t be such a pleasant experience, I reckon if I tried really hard I could hear the rustle of the leaves through the few trees sometimes found around a busy airport. And notice that there was no sound of leaves being re-arranged by an industrious sparrow. Hard work, but worth the effort.

Think about how we use the skills of listening with our coaching clients. As we put aside thoughts about our solutions, how to maintain our professional image, or even what question to ask next, we offer the gift of listening. Really listening.

Because what they are saying is important. Really important.

Every word conveys its unique significance, no less meaningful than the absence of other words.

We actively listen to what they say, and especially what they don’t say. We notice their tone of voice, their energy (or lack of energy), passions, pauses and pacing. We sense the balance between what they say, how they sound, and what they said before.

We listen for possibilities, dreams and longings. We listen for strengths and capabilities they might not notice, then help them listen too, by asking questions that help them hear what they are saying.

We listen with our hearts, with all that we are – not just with our ears and minds. Sometimes we get to listen in as the Holy Spirit speaks to them. Then help them to hear him, too.

How God Listens

When we pray, does God listen to what we say, and what we cannot even put into words? What significance does he see in our emotions, in our silence, in our energy (or lack of energy)? What strengths does he notice, what possibilities does he prompt us to believe as he invites us to look in directions we hadn’t explored?

Does he sit and listen with us, as well as listening to us? How much of his attention do we get when we spend time with him? Does he get distracted? Does he leap in with a solution, or invite us to explore his ways for ourselves?

It would be great to “listen” in the comments section as you describe your experiences of God listening to you, but to be honest I am more interested in what you do next. Try this:

  1. Reflect on everything you know about listening as a coach; the skills, the practices, the principles.
  2. Use the list as a prayer of thanks to God that the way he listens to you is infinitely better in every area.

I want to coach the way Jesus would do it if he were in my shoes. Experiencing the way he listens helps me learn to listen to others, and in some magnificent way I get to listen to him too.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for
one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photograph © Geoff Cheeseman


  1. Lisa

    This is a wonderful post! What was also wonderful for me is “hearing” your voice speak it to me! It was a privilege to be in class together and hear your thoughtful questions. Thank you for encouraging the practice, the discipline really, of listening well.

    • Geoff Cheeseman

      Ah, a fellow classmate from way back when! Good to hear from you again Lisa. Sounds like your listening skills are finely honed if you can hear me from this distance. Maybe an audio download might help the others…

  2. Matthew Reed

    This sentence is one of the most powerful things I’ve read on coaching:
    “As we put aside thoughts about our solutions, how to maintain our professional image, or even what question to ask next, we offer the gift of listening. Really listening.”
    This will soon be on the wall of my office!

    • Geoff Cheeseman

      Hey, Matthew! Thanks for the feedback! And for the gift that writers value most of all: Action.

  3. Pam Taylor

    Thank you for those reminders, Geoff. And for the connect back to paying attention to how God listens to us and then recreate it in others…Powerful! Thanks!

    • Geoff Cheeseman

      I need the reminders at least as much as you, Pam. How to integrate this mutual listening into our daily walk with God so that it finds consistent expression in our coaching is a problem I have yet to solve. Any ideas?