March 24, 2023
By Dave Bushy, PCC
As coaches, we spend most of our time listening. We do that, of course with our ears, and also with our eyes, our body language, our experience and with our hearts.
When we do speak, we use inquiry and what are called “powerful questions” that are meant to elicit ideas from our clients to help them explore their options and ultimately the choices they make.
So much of that work with clients involves getting connected with them, remaining connected and staying interested and curious in their life’s journey.
To stay “in the flow” of the moment as coaches, we are schooled in not interrupting our clients. For to do so would be to stop the thought, break the contact and likely shut down what could emerge as significant breakthroughs in a session.
When I work with clients on any of the video-conferencing systems currently available, I need to be especially attentive to the micro-second delay on the screen, so as to be sure that the client has completed a thought or a sentence and then paused. Even then, I normally take a moment before I ask a question, just to let their idea “sit.”
Some clients and even friends and neighbors ask me about the approach to coaching and my watchwords of “not interrupting.” They assert that oftentimes we need to interrupt others in order to get our point across – that life just doesn’t work that way.
I ask, “Why?”
And then I listen again and let the ideas emerge for those who are curious. I try to model a behavior in life that I practice professionally. It can be so illuminating.
Meaningful dialogue is a series of words to be spoken, points to be understood and ideas to be explored. With two people it can be challenging and still manageable, as one person presents their viewpoints, the other listens, pauses and then likely asks meaningful questions. It becomes a similar cadence like coaching, which keeps two people connected. By intently listening to another and staying curious, we can explore so many ideas with them and then reflect back what we hear.
Oftentimes, the cadence gets disrupted when one person begins formulating their answers instead of listening and devising more questions.
Think of these two approaches to a simple statement by one person about the challenges they face:
It can be compounded when more than two people are in the conversation. A statement about a challenge can proceed like this, often in rapid sequence:
Three people. Three non-sequiturs and no completed thoughts. There is no flow – just a series of interruptions.
We all do it – even coaches.
I remind my clients how the “Power in Pause” can enhance their communications.
And understanding how interruptions can stop communication in its tracks is equally important.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a an ICF-certified coach who was trained at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC). He is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout the world.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay