doing away with distractions

Authentic listening requires intentional, active, uninterrupted attention. Distractions are a common hindrance to listening well, and they interfere with our desire to communicate and/or coach with care, curiosity, and connection. 

respect listening

I have been very challenged and convicted by all I am learning in my M.A. Counseling and Coaching class. We spent weeks studying listening skills, and I realize how much I still have to learn and improve.

One of the books we are reading is: Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Christian Coach by Tony Stoltzfus. I highly recommend it.

listening flattery

This is one of the listening self-evaluations from the chapter on distractions. When I read through these statements, I saw many ways I could improve my listening. I think you might find it helpful also. Reflect on a recent past conversation or coaching appointment you had. Answer the questions, adding or subtracting points as appropriate.

Let me know how you did!

Distracting Environment

-1   Your e-mail or IM program was open in front of you.

-1   Your to-do list was sitting out in front of you where you could read it.

-5   You did e-mail, IM or work on other projects while you were talking/coaching.

-1   You were sitting at your main work desk.

-1   You could hear a noticeable amount of background noise (others talking, a phone ringing, TV, etc).

 -2   Your door was open, the place you were coaching in has no door, or you were in a public place.

-2   You finished another meeting, project or deadline within 10 minutes before the appointment.

-2   You rushed in or worked on other tasks right up to the moment the appointment/conversation started.

-2   There is a fair amount of stress and conflict in your life, or you are emotionally needy.

-1   You were hungry, thirsty, tired or otherwise in a state of physical discomfort.

___   Total

Supportive Environment

+1   You organized your notes/resources for this person/client and kept them easily accessible.

+3   You took at least 10 minutes before this appointment to get centered and review your notes/materials.

+2   You’ve made a serious personal commitment to be all there while you were coaching/talking.

+3   Your desk, screen, and or table/desk were clear, or you had a separate place to talk/coach away from daily work.

+1   You had a phone headset. (If the conversation took place by phone.)

+1   You had a comfortable environment to talk/coach in (correct temperature, good chair, etc.).

+1   You prayed for this person/client this week.

+3   You didn’t have any calls, walk-ins or interruptions while you talked/coached.

+2   You scheduled your appointment at a time of day when you are alert and well rested.

+1   Your connection was clear and totally reliable. You aren’t using a cell phone or voice chat.

___    Total

Distraction + Supportive = ________ Final Total

(**If your final score is negative, may want to change your environment. If you are coaching professionally, the bar should be higher: if your score is less than +7, you may want to make some changes to improve your listening environment.)

Do distractions affect your ability to listen well? What could you change?


Stoltzfus, Tony (2005). Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Christian Coach (Kindle Locations 2662-2685).

13 thoughts on “doing away with distractions

  1. Such good thoughts and practical suggestions – thank you, Terry! (I met you at the Cru Blogger Meet and Greet event this past summer, and am just now getting around to visiting you here on your blog – sorry it took me awhile!) I’ve been asking God to teach me more and more about how to grow in the area of really listening well to others. Appreciated your thoughts! (Cherry at


    • Thanks so much, Cherry! And thanks for visiting! God’s timing is perfect… I look forward to visiting your blog also! I think I tried to earlier, but must have had an incomplete link… I’ll stop by now!


  2. OK–got me! Funny how you don’t think of them as distractions when you’re doing them. Thanks for the reminder. Listening is work! Hard work! I appreciate that I can learn from what you’re learning!


  3. AHHHH!!! If your final score is negative would it be a positive thing since you’re a home school mom trying to multi-task 24/7?? haha I felt so many pricks as I read the first list. Ummmm, I hate to think of what my last TEN conversations have looked like with my family (and in a sense, aren’t parents leadership coaches??). Thank you for setting the bar higher. I was just pondering moving a few pieces of furniture around so that when someone comes in to “just ask a quick question”, I can easily move into a more focused environment. The time is short, so these thoughts are great for being diligent in redeeming them!!


    • Parents are most definitely leadership coaches! I think about that all the time, especially as they are transitioning into adulthood! And I love your idea about moving the furniture around – that is a really practical way to help focus! Thanks for adding that!


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