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Listen Better 

One of the most important skills that a health coach uses is listening.

You may think of listening as an activity that doesn’t need to be taught.  You may think it should come naturally.  Coaches sometimes are disappointed that listening would be all they do.  If you’re a good listener, you’ll be a super effective coach.

Listening involves personal involvement as well as commitment.  To listen effectively, you must have both commitment and patience.

Even though you can think of a million other things to do, or really, really want just to cut to the chase and tell your client what to do, it’s important that you take the time to listen, develop a relationship and show your client that you care about them.

Almost guaranteed, listening will take longer to come to a solution.  You may come to a different solution that is better for your client when you take the time to listen.  Commitment and patience will lay the groundwork for better solutions in the future too.

If you’re in a hurry, you won’t have the opportunity to build the trust required for a good relationship.  Your job as a good coach is to work with your client and not to push them into a fast resolution.

Cathy Sykora

Founder, The Health Coach Group

Cathy helps health coaches build and maintain successful businesses that improve the lives of others.

Physical Setting

Free Yourself from Distractions


You can visit with you client almost anyplace.  The most important thing to be taken into consideration is to be free of distraction, and in a spot where you don’t need to worry about your conversation being overheard.  After that, your client’s comfort, and relaxation would be the top concern.

Don’t be afraid to be assertive when you’re deciding where to meet.  Coaching protocol is your expertise, and they will be happy you look out for their needs.

Honor your client’s physical boundaries by sitting a comfortable distance from them.  Sitting too close can be pretty invasive.  At the same time, you want to maintain some intimacy, so don’t sit too far away.  If they sit too far away, ask them to move.

If you’re in a room with a lot of noise outside:

  • Close the door.
  • Offer to find another place to talk.
  • Offer to move, or ask them to move to another phone.

If it’s too bad, sometimes you just need to work through it.  It depends on where you are in your conversation.  If you aren’t at a critical point, end your session and reschedule.


Body Language

Listening means more than just the words they speak.

Often a giggle that seems out of place can indicate a nervous reaction.  Other things you will want to watch are:

  • tremors
  • change in breathing
  • posture
  • noises that are out of context
  • style of clothing
  • gestures

There are some great books on body language.  Crossing the arms can mean they don’t want to hear what you’re saying.  Rubbing their nose can mean the same thing (or that you need to offer them a tissue).

Changes from Meeting to Meeting

Most coaches meet regularly with their clients.  Over time, you may notice patterns of behavior.  Keep track of those behaviors and you may find a lot of unspoken answers.

  • Repeatedly bringing something small up – can add to something bigger.
  • Your client may be more agitated or nervous as things in their life change or happen
  • They may be very quiet at times and very talkative at other times.
  • Listen to what they don’t say.

EX –  If they’re more talkative than usual – point it out.  Ask your client “You seem more talkative, is there a reason for that?”

Active Listening Skills

A good coach can be a mirror for their client.  You can help them to see things with clarity and help them to understand themselves better.

  • Look them in the eye.
  • Lean forward slightly to show you are engaged.
  • Forget about your watch or the building going up out the window.
  • If you’re interrupted, remember where you were.
  • Reflect, ask questions and expand.

Open Ended Questions

Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes-or-no.  Questions that require introspection are best.

Closed Questions:

  1. Did that make you sad?
  2. Do you like brussel sprouts?
  3. Are you going to work out?

Open Questions:

  1. How did you feel when that happened?
  2. What did you think of that exercise at the gym?
  3. What can you tell me about your dinner last night?

Ask questions that help you to understand what your client means.  When asking questions, don’t judge.  When you imply judgment the client might become defensive and quit talking.  Avoid making assumptions.  That means asking the question only, not adding how you think it may have made them feel.  Ask your client and let them do the talking.


More Active Listening Skills 

Next week…more on active listening.



Join in the discussion below


Share your experiences with coaching in the comments below.  Feel free to ask questions, and we’ll do our best to get them all answered right here.

Health Coaches, feel free to share and use this article on your websites, emails and social media.




  1. Linda

    I listen a lot and I’m very conscious about it. I fight to interrupt and so glad that I just let the client be.

  2. Lynne Wadsworth

    Great post. So many find it hard just to listen and not push in with your own thoughts and your own life. The art of listening is a real gift.


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