Why coaching might work?
As a coach, I describe myself as a facilitator. When I meet a client for the first time, I am always at pains to explain that I am not an expert and that the only expert on the client is the client themselves. This is sometimes a surprise for clients. Perhaps there is a view that coaches are somewhat special and have access to some blueprint to the ideal life which they can lend to their clients. I don’t subscribe to that view
At my Clear and Compassionate Communication workshops, I often start with an icebreaker that I call the interruption game. The object of this game is to interrupt a speaker in as many ways as possible. Interruptions range from giving advice, checking your phone, hijacking the conversation to tell a story, consoling, interrupting to garner specific details, etc. Generally, I pair two interrupters with each speaker. Even two or three minutes of being deliberately interrupted like this is exhausting for the speaker. It also makes the speaker aware of the specific types of interruption that they find most irritating and the interrupters become aware of their habitual interruptions. People generally recognise that the desire to interrupt with advice is often irresistible.
Following the nightmare of interruption, I invite the speaker to continue their story and on this occasion the former interrupters listen intently in silence for about one minute. The speaker generally finds the silence glorious and refreshing. I would describe this listening as a form of empathetic listening. It is quite rare that we find ourselves being listened to in our everyday life.
Often conversations can feel a little bit like a relay. The speaker is holding the baton and the listeners are often waiting intently on a gap in the conversation to grab the baton and gain control of the conversation. In such a conversation no one is really focused on the content of the conversation but focused on getting their share of the air time.
A coaching session offers the client a chance to express, without interruption, their views, opinions and concerns and to be listened to empathetically and intently by another person who has no agenda, history or vested interest in the client. That the coach has no agenda or vested interest in the client offers great freedom and creates a great sense of space for the client. Such a relationship is unique. In this unique space the client often can make significant progress dealing with their issues through simply expressing them aloud and self-reflecting. I believe that one of the most important roles of the coach is to hold this special space for the client’s benefit.