I hear you

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This week, we are taking a look at communication and collaboration skills in a coaching relationship. I began the quest with the broad question, what are the protocols used in the coaching relationship? In my last blog, I focused on my first month in my new position as a coach. I gave an overview about the relationships I was building with my “coachees.” This time, I wanted to dive deeper into communication skills and have decided to focus specifically on the actively listening protocol. Below is a clip from the show, Everybody Loves Raymond. I would say that prior to this course and mentor training, this clip mirrored (in loose terms) my understanding of active listening.

Everybody Loves Raymond

What is Actively Listening?

One of the reasons that I want to focus on this protocol is because it is an area that I have struggled with. When speaking to others, I often find myself connecting with what they are talking about and blurt out with my “me too” story. In the coaching role, it is not about you, it is about listening and fully attending to your person. To actively listen, you have to remove you, remove the distractions, lean in and really focus on what the speaker is saying. (Foltos, 2017)

I found a actively listening survey that was adapted from Brownell, and I decided to take it. It breaks down the act of listening into 6 parts; hearing, understanding, evaluating, remembering, interpreting, and responding. I scored lowest in the remembering and understanding. This did not surprise me as I get really nervous when speaking to others, especially those I don’t know well. Instead of asking for clarification when something is not clear, I usually smile and pretend I get it. But I have found that that strategy does not work in coaching. Coaching is about understanding what the needs and purpose of the person you are working with. Below is the HURIER Listening Model breakdown.

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The HURIER Listening Model developed by Judi Brownell

1. H – Develop Hearing • Do not multi-task when listening—focus entirely on the speaker • Eliminate distractions • Position yourself where it is easy to hear • Postpone listening if you cannot concentrate • Be prepared to listen

2. U – Increase Understanding • Ask for clarification when vocabulary or jargon is unfamiliar • Restate to ensure that you have understood completely • Ask questions to clarify intentions • Distinguish details from the speaker’s main points • Refrain from interrupting the person speaking

3. R – Improve Remembering • Quickly identify good reasons to remember what you hear • Stay calm and focused—stress interferes with memory • Learn short and long term memory techniques • Continuously practice to improve your memory

4. I – Interpret Accurately • Observe and consider the speaker’s nonverbal cues • Listen for emotional messages as well as words • Take the context of the communication into account • Encourage the speaker • Recognize and account for individual differences

5. E – Evaluate Wisely • Listen to the entire message before responding • Apply guidelines of sound reasoning in making judgments • Distinguish emotional from logical appeals • Recognize the influence of your personal bias and values • Differentiate between the ideas presented and the person speaking

6. R – Respond Appropriately • Be aware of your unintentional nonverbal communication • Recognize how your response influences the speaker’s decisions • Distinguish among different types of response—including judgments, empathy, opinions, and questions • Expand your behavioral flexibility—make choices based on the needs of the situation rather than your habits and comfort level

Tips for Better Listening

@Steve Kloyda, 2017

Everyday I am learning about new strategies and tips to become a better listener. Here are a few that I would like to share with you.

  • Taking Notes: This has been a life saver for me in two ways. Before meeting with my “coachee” I look back at my notes from my last meeting so that I am grounded in what we have talked about and I can use it as an entry in our discussion. The second way that this has been helpful is when I am back in my office and I am addressing the topic or finding answers, I make notations on the notes in a different color to help me remember what actions I have taken. I work with 15 different schools and this step has helped me grow my capacity for remembering.
  • NO Me TOO: I have been working on this when working with other teachers. In my 15 years of teaching I have seen a lot and I love to share my experiences. But in the coaching relationship it is not the time to put the focus on the coach. We are there to listen with an open mind and not anticipate what the “coachee” is going to say. I’ve noticed that making this change has really helped me focus on what is being communicated.
  • Pausing and Paraphrasing: This has been crucial in helping build my deficit of understanding. At first it was really awkward, but practice has made it feel more natural for me. My family thought it was silly at first, but my son told me that he feels like I am paying attention to him more. My “coachees” are predominately libarians, and this is the first time that they have had someone “coach” them.


  • Brownell, J. (1996). Listening: Attitudes, principles, and skills. Boston: Allyn and Bacon

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