Besides creating a listening space where your client can speak freely and be truly heard, coaching aims for the client to self-create insight around their presenting situation, and especially about themselves.
I think of insight or new awareness as the gold the coach is aiming for the client to mine from themselves in every coaching session. In The Target Approach to the ICF core competencies, I consider Creating Awareness an “Output” competency, meaning awareness is a result or output of engaging with other competencies such as your coaching presence, listening, the type of questions you ask, and comments or observations you offer (i.e. direct communication).
Be Forever Fully Present
When you ask a question, or offer an observation, be fully present and listen for what happens next in the client. If you notice the client becoming quiet, then they might be internally processing something. Or maybe the client says, “Ahhhh,” or “That’s interesting.”
Either way, the worst thing a coach can do is jump into the space and say something that either moves the client along with a question, or completely ignores (or doesn’t hear) that the client is processing some emerging insight. You will raise or lower trust of you by the client depending on your ability to remain silent and allow the client to fully express themselves.
One of the Ten Characteristics of MCC Skill Level is Spaciousness, which is characterized by allowing space after the client stops speaking and before the coach starts speaking. Some coaches are not comfortable with silence; they’re just waiting for the client to stop speaking so they can say something. Or even worse, they cut the client short or interrupt which can lower trust with the client, as you are communicating through your actions that what you think and want to say is more important than letting the client to continue to unpack their thinking and emerging awareness.
Stay In the Moment
For MCC skill level, the amount of silence the coach is comfortable allowing is an indication of what they believe their role is, and what they are being present to. If the coach thinks their job is to add value, then they’ll feel uncomfortable with silence, as they are just waiting for the moment to say something. Their presence is ahead of the client instead of staying in the moment.
The most incredible gift we give our client is to show them respect by letting them have the space they need to begin to articulate what is emerging for them.
Something I often hear as an ICF Assessor for MCC and PCC credentials, is the client will have an initial insight and the coach jumps right on it. They may notice the client is having some insight and nicely ask something like, “It seems like you’re getting some insight. What’s happening for you?” Then the coach listens to what the client says, and immediately asks questions that move the client to action, when what the client needs is further space to allow even deeper insight to possibly emerge.
From Awareness to Action
Being spacious and allowing silence is the natural for a masterful coach. You can ask a question such as, “Is there anything else you’re getting?” and then be silent again. The point is to allow the client more space than you think in order for them to further unpack their emerging insights. And only after you’ve checked with the client if there is anything else (and allowed more silence), then you can ask the client further questions.
Often once insight has emerged, a client gains clarity about what to do next, so if it seems appropriate timing ask the client, “What, if anything do you want to do with that new information you’ve uncovered?” Sometimes the client may say they need to think about it more, which is an action.
Comfort with Silence
Consider how comfortable you are with allowing silence, even more than you think you need to allow. You will be giving your client a great gift (and creating deeper trust between you) when you allow more space any time in the session, for insights in the client to fully emerge.
Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?
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