Uncover True Meaning
This can cause real challenges in coaching relationships as it is the coach’s due diligence to ensure that:
- The client is aware of the meaning of the words that they themselves are using
- The coach is as clear as possible what that feeling means for the client
So, how can you make the most of coaching conversations and uncover true meaning? Below are my top five tips that I regularly use in my career or executive coaching to support and achieve clarity:
Ask the Client to Explore the Feeling
An easy way is by asking the client to explore that feeling. Questions such as, “You have mentioned you feel frustrated. How does this frustration feel?” This is the first step; allowing them to identify for themselves the actual meaning behind the words they are using.
Juxtapose Thinking and Feeling
One of the ways that I support clients to identify how they truly feel is by asking them to think about it. It might seem strange at first to marry thinking and feeling; however, we do know (through neuroscience and processes such as symbolic labeling) that by asking people to label and rationalize their feelings, they achieve better understanding of what they truly mean. So, when a client next tells you that they are feeling “frustrated,” ask them, “How would you define frustration?”
Use Comparisons with Related Feelings
Asking the client to compare that feeling to a similar one (typically either more or less intense; e.g., irritated or angry when frustrated) brings out subtle nuance that will give clearer meaning to both of you. In this case, you could also ask the client to discuss how they would feel if they were irritated rather than frustrated.
Discuss How that Feeling is Perceived by Others
This is useful if the client is unaware of the impact of their feelings and actions on other people. For example, I recently asked a client, “How does your husband see you when you’re frustrated?” to which she replied, “He doesn’t see frustration but thinks I am being petty and irritating.” This later led her to understand that she herself had not made her feelings clear to him.
Tap into Values
Sometimes when clients describe emotions, they are not entirely sure where a certain feeling stems from. As such, it is important to listen to what clients are not saying, including any underlying values. Consider asking something like “You mention being frustrated with your colleague. What is leading you to feeling like this?” followed, later on, by “What does this tell you about yourself?” What tips can you share to help us strengthen this mutual understanding between coach and client? An emerging area in coaching is that of using art and visuals as an alternative tool to language. Do you use this in your coaching and if so how?
Posted by Joseph Grech, ACC | July 27, 2018