Core Skills – Direct Communication

Core Skills – Direct Communication


The ICF description of this skill includes “the ability to communicate effectively during the coaching sessions, and use language that has the greatest positive impact on the student”

Well, of course as a coach you do want to have the greatest positive impact, what else?

Here are a few tips based on the ICF description

Clearly state the coaching objectives, the meeting agenda, the purpose of techniques or exercises. This will ensure that you are both / all on the same page regarding what the session is about. You are being directive in this case, “We are going to draw on the whiteboard so that we can both see what you are talking about more clearly.”. If you are a gentle and caring coach, this can be a stretch, and it’s supportive to your client that you are more firm and directive during this part of the coaching. It’s sometimes called “taking command”.

Use language that appropriate and respectful.
Well, of course!
You need to keep your language non-sexist, non-racist, non-technical… If you notice that you have stepped over the line,… admit it, but don’t apologise. “That was sexist, I heard what I said now.” If your student catches you and tears you off a strip because you were sounding racist, for example, accept it, thank them for being direct, and get back to the job of coaching. “I hear what you are saying, it was a racist comment, you caught me and told me off (pause) now back to the coaching (pause)”.

Be clear, articulate and direct in sharing and providing feedback. Usually shorter feedback is better than longer; also feedback that is not “carefully wrapped” in nice words, but rather delivered “straight” – with positive intent. You have a coaching agreement that allows you to be direct. The problem with wrapping feedback in nice words is that the feedback becomes distorted when the student unwaps it, distorted by their fears, values, self-beliefs… and more. You may feel that you are protecting the student from hard truths… actually you are protecting yourself from their anticipated reaction. Remember that this is a coaching conversation, and the common rules of politeness do not apply.

Reframe and articulate. You can provide the language that the student needs to understand their situation from another perspective, so they can see what they want or are uncertain about. “I hear you say …. “, “The impression I get is …”

Metaphors. One of the most powerful ways to communicate directly is to use metaphors and analogies that illustrate a point. For students there are many kinds of metaphors that will be useful. When in doubt I wonder what kind of animal can represent what we are talking about, or what kind of weather, or music… it depends on the inspiration I get from the person I am coaching.

The best metaphors come from the client’s world. I frequently use driving as a metaphor, even though I don’t drive a car. My clients are adults and driving is very much part of their lives.

You may choose to paint a verbal picture. Describe the image using words. This works well with students who learn through the auditory channel. Alternatively I may use dance or statues as metaphors, asking the student to show what it looks like physically. This works especially well with students who learn though their bodies.

This is part of a series of 12 blogs about the ICF Core Coaching Skills