Living the Masteries

by Alison Davis, IAC-CC

Living the Masteries is a regular column where we invite coaches to share their experiences of Living the Masteries in their everyday lives. As we become aware of the Masteries and really understand and use them, we realise just how powerful they are and how, used effectively, they can truly make a lasting difference to our relationships, to our clients and to the world.

This month our focus is on Mastery Three. Ed Britton, the IAC’s new Capacity Building Specialist, shares some of his insights into Mastery Three: Engaged Listening.

I often struggle with an “over-active” mind—meaning that my brain seems to take on a life of its own, wandering off in random directions when I’d really rather it be doing something else, or even doing nothing at all! This habit can get in the way when it is time to be listening rather than thinking.

Engaged listening feels to me like lending your mind to another person while they are communicating. At its best, my mind is empty of my own thoughts, and it is able to absorb and connect with the thoughts and feelings of another–it’s as if I hand over the controls of my mind to them for a while. I believe it is a most wonderful and even intimate gift to give to another, enabling reflection with deep clarity and insight.

For me, Engaged Listening is more than being non-judgmental. It is empathetic, appreciative, and finally, emancipating. Engaged listening can be enlightening, like turning on a second light in the same room. It can be supportive–lending a hand to carry a heavy load. Engaged listening is more perceiving than hearing; more receptive than responsive; more perception than content.

So, my mind “with a mind of its own” doesn’t lend itself to engaged listening. There is discipline involved in giving the gift of mind to another person. It’s a skill I have learnt and it has taken practice.

Centering, or meditation, has helped me to develop the discipline of being present in service of another. The exercise of emptying my mind and clearing the circuits enables me to clear my thoughts when a client or family member or acquaintance needs that kind of service.

Staying current with my personal life, work and self-counsel also helps to keep down my mental clutter.

And finally, when the moment calls for that special kind of listening, having the presence to recognize the need and to give the gift, naturally and easily–well, that’s spirit to spirit–and the words just never get in the way.


Ed Britton coaches expats and their families who live and work in China, as they adjust to a unique and sometimes challenging cultural setting. He lives in Xiamen, Fujian province on the mainland coast just west of Taiwan with his wife and two teen-aged sons. They are originally from Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada.


This is your column; it can only continue if you share your experiences of Living the Masteries. Please send us your stories—you will inspire others by your sharing, and by talking about the Masteries, we create an echo chamber where their power takes on new meaning in the world.

Send your contributions to Alison Davis at, so she can share them for you in the Living the Masteries column in the VOICE each month.

Alison Davis, IAC-CC, is a certifying examiner at the IAC, coach, mentor coach and founder of the IAC–licensed virtual coaching school Foundations for Living. Discover more at

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