How much should a coach share?
Coaching is a conversation between two human beings, and this conversation changes both the coach and the client. One difference between a coaching conversation and a chat between friends is that the coach aims at being “decentered and influential”. But what does that mean?
Maybe it becomes clearer when you differentiate it from the chat between friends. At the beginning of my career, I gave communication trainings, mostly for German managers wanting to be successful in an international environment. Let’s say that the art of small talk is not one of the primary German virtues. So I taught “small talk” and how it works:
Person A and Person B are observing the same thing, e.g. a talk at a conference.
Person A: “That was a really interesting talk?” (Step 1, mention something positive that you both observe)
Person B: “Yeah! What did you like about it?” (Step 2, agree and ask an open question)
Person A: “Oh, her example on how she demonstrated leadership in her kid’s school – I could so relate. I had a similar situation when…” (Step 3, link topic to one of your stories)
Person B: “Really! That’s so cool, you know when my daughter…” (Step 4, admire and link to one of your stories)
This goes on ad infinitum. Both conversation partners tell stories and in a great conversation one topic follows the next in free association. Each partner learns about the other and the vibe in harmony.
In a coaching conversation the coach “centers” the client’s experience – the conversation is about the client and the coach generally does not volunteer information about themselves. And coaching would not be coaching, if there wasn’t a “unless” that we could add to the sentence. Coaches generally do not volunteer information about themselves unless:
- they are asked and the answer helps the client trust the coach (e.g. “Do you have experience with these cases?”)
- their experience “normalizes” the client’s experience when the client is feeling bad about themselves unnecessarily (e.g. “Yeah, that can happen, you know, I also sometimes feel nervous when presenting)
- they have a story that might add a perspective which is offered very tentatively (e.g. “I have a story that may or may not relate to what you are experiencing – would you like me to share?”
Do you have other places in your coaching where you share something about yourself? If yes, why not join one of our free meetups and exchanges to let us know.
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