You cannot not influence

We almost had a fistfight in our coaching masterclass the other day!

Of course, not really 🙂 — we had a wonderful exchange of ideas around the power of language in coaching sessions. The questions we got so interested in as to almost jump across the screen was “can you really partner with your client” and “what is the difference between co-creating and partnering?”

Are we weird — I guess :-), but we are passionate about coaching, too.

So let me be mean and use this space to let you know MY thoughts. Rebuttals welcome.

Co-creation

We cannot not co-create in conversation. Even when one person walks away from a conversation they have co-created something — they have established that they don’t want to continue the conversation. Also, when someone “blocks” the conversation by contradicting or by not following the invitation of their conversational partner, they are simply letting that partner know about their preferences in the conversation. For example:

Coach: “What are your best hopes from this session?”

Client: “You and your hopes malarkey! I have NO hope, go away!”

We have a clear indication that the client does not want to talk about hopes right now. So then it is the coach’s job to extend a different invitation. We always co-create something. As Watzlawick said: “We cannot not communicate”.

In conversation, we always extend invitations to our conversational partner: to draw attention to one thing and not another, to look at this topic and not another etc.

An example (I am stealing from our masterclass):

Client: “I have had a really difficult time, these last weeks”

Coach: “Oh — difficult?”

is a very different invitation from

Client: “I have had a really difficult time, these last weeks”

Coach: “Oh — these last weeks?”

One invites the attention to the “difficult time”, the other to “these last weeks”, which implies that there could have been other, better times.

Partnering

So, when the International Coaching Federation speaks about “partnering with the client”, they do not mean that the coach should not be influential or not co-create (as this is impossible). Coaches can be conscious of the influence and give clients more or less choices about the direction the conversation will take. This is kind of a “meta-influence”: “I know that by talking, we are influencing each other, and I would like to give you as much choice as I can in order to create a conversation that is helpful and customized to you”.

When the coach picks up words the client uses, the coach might partner by asking: “Have I picked up what is important to you?”. The coach does introduce the concept of importance here (so there is no way around being influential and co-createting), but is also giving the client a choice about where to focus the attention (which is also something the coach introduces).

So “partnering with the client” does not mean, we think that a conversation can be “non-influential” or not co-creating. It means that there is an additional level of awareness around giving the client choices in the conversation. A last example:

Coach: “What are your best hopes from this session?”

Client: “You and your hopes malarkey! I have NO hope, go away!”

Coach: “Suppose you had a little hope, what could that be?”

Here, the coach has decided, that “hope” will be talked about and continues on the path the client has rejected.

Coach: “What are your best hopes from this session?”

Client: “You and your hopes malarkey! I have NO hope, go away!”

Coach: “Hm — if the hopes malarkey is not what you want to talk about — want do you want to talk about?”

Here the coach accepts the client’s choice of topic and enquires about the preferred direction for the conversation: partnering.

If you are interested in these kinds of musings and discussions (no, no fistfights were really involved — we had a LOT of fun) and you are an experienced coach, our masterclass might be for you. It builds on ACC level coaching (so 60 hours of coach training) and we have 2 a year.

Registration is here:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest