Insights from Flow

The Art of Active Listening

Active listening is a crucial skill that comes under ICF’s “Communicating Effectively” Core Competency. ICF defines active listening as:

“Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires, and to support client self-expression”


Most people do not employ active listening when conversing with someone; instead, they listen only to respond and react and not absorb the critical information. Active listening is the ability to be truly present to what the client is saying rather than listening to the internal chatter happening in the coach’s mind.

Moreover, active listening in professional coaching involves listening to just words and a person’s volume, pitch, tone of voice and the particular choice of words used in the conversation. The coach needs to tune himself/herself to what the client is speaking, matching their frequency. 

There are verbal communication techniques that a coach can practice to improve their listening skills. As we teach some of these in our Module 1-5 ICF ACSTH/ACC coach training programs, here are some example dialogues: 

Rephrasing: Rephrasing or repeating a person’s statement differently with your own choice of words:


Client: “I am angry at my family because they do not pay attention to me.”

Coach: “… what I am hearing is that you feel like your family does not hear you and you feel disappointed.” 

Reiteration: Repeating back to a person precisely what is said.

Example: ,

Client: “I am pleased about it.”

Coach: “So it sounds like you are pleased about the situation/outcome/circumstances.” 

Clarifying: Clearing out any conflicting information to check in with the client to make sure you understand correctly.


Client: “I did not think she would talk to me again, so I was okay with it. But she called me, and I was excited to see her call”

Coach: “So you were not sure if you were going to talk to her?”

Client: “Well, I did not think she would call” 

Coach: “So you were excited when she called you means you looked forward to it.”

Client: “Yes, I guess I did even though I did not want to when I was angry at her.” 

Mirroring: Reflecting and using the client’s same expressions.


Client: “I knew he would throw a fit if he saw me at the party.”

Coach: “So, did he throw a fit?”

Beyond these techniques, perhaps the most important factor that helps a coach listen actively is their coach mindset. In professional coaching, a transformational relationship requires respecting clients’ unique model of the world, which includes values, beliefs and experiences. A coaching relationship should always be a non-judgmental one. 

If you also want to learn the art of active listening, consider enrolling in one of our ICF Accredited Coach Certification programs, email at to inquire now. 

Talyaa Vardar