When I first started training to be a coach I was obsessed with having the right question, a killer enquiry which would lead to a huge breakthrough for the client. I was sold on the idea that there would be Damascene conversions based on the power of my question technique.

I’m pleased to say that I managed to get that out of my system early on and these days I’ve put aside any agenda or ego and placed myself solely in the service of my client.

Recently I’ve started a number of coaching contracts and again and again one word kept cropping up. The client would hold forth about what was going on for them, they’d spend some time explaining and perhaps justifying their position / approach. I would ask something along the lines of “Is it really that way?” Or even just “Really?” in a quizzical tone and they would pause, think and then start the conversation afresh. This time they would appear properly in the room, not a version designed for public consumption. They would be frank, open, engaging and present in a way that moments before had seemed impossible.

Recently Julie Drybrough wrote a great post about dealing with the thing that’s a little bit ugly in your life. I’m with her in that one has to approach the tough stuff and yet it never ceases to amaze me how often we shy away and present a sanitised version of ourselves or a situation (yes me too, took me over 20 years to speak openly about my own mental health battles for example).

And whilst that is understandable I find it fascinating that the simple act of listening well, acknowledging the other person and showing a bit of empathy can transform someone’s perspective of their own life.

Fascinating, yet also

  • reassuring because it offers hope,
  • inspiring because I see clients breakthrough on big issues and
  • humbling because I get to learn from their courage

As I read back on this post I’m smiling to myself because when I started it, it was going to be a post about the power of one word but by having that word in the text it became about something more – the essence of coaching. Am I surprised by that? Not really.


About Jon Bartlett

I'm a coach, blogging on things that occur to me, that I want to share and any other fun stuff I find lying around in the real world.
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