People love their stories, but you'll serve them better by focussing on process instead
As a coach and NLP trainer, I love to demonstrate how you can coach someone or use NLP with someone without getting into their content. What does this mean?
DON'T FOCUS ON THE STORY!
Content is the story and most, if not all, of it is completely unnecessary when it comes to benefiting from a coaching session. If fact, letting a client tell too much of their story can lead to the session getting way off track and going way over time, often with an end result nowhere near as powerful as it could have been.
The only time this is not true is if the content they are talking about details what they will experience in the future when their goal is achieved.
Remember the story they are telling is their version (not the facts). The important information is;
- How is this version of the story affecting their life?
- What version of the story would get them to where they want to be?
- What can they do to create the new version?
WHEN TO WATCH OUT FOR STORIES TAKING OVER THE SESSION
As a coach, it is important to be wary of content right from the start when you ask your client what would they like to work on this session. This is where the content can start flowing as the client tells you about all the things happening now that they don’t want anymore – the stories. Examples include:
- “I want to decide what to do about my job, work is so stressful, people are gossiping all the time…”,
- “I want to be more healthy but at the moment I am working fulltime and looking after 4 kids...” or
- “I want to be more confident but everyone has always put me down and I am not very good at...”
At this point it can be tempting to ask for more content and this is a common mistake. We are human and that means we are curious. As a coach it is important to be curious about the elements that will take the client to a new place and this is NOT more about their story. I don’t very often focus on what NOT to do but I will today.
WHAT TO ASK AND NOT TO ASK YOUR CLIENT
- Don’t ask; “What are people at your work gossiping about?” Instead ask; “How would you like to feel at work? If you felt that, what would you see or hear that would be different?”
- Don’t ask; “Can you get the kids looked after one day a week so you have more time?” Ask; “If you had unlimited time, what first step would you take to getting healthy?”
- Don’t ask; “Who puts you down and what do they say?” Ask; “Can you tell me a time you do feel confident and describe what this feels like?”
All this content is fine if used in the right way. Focus on what it is they want and not on the content.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESSThe process is how they are storing the content or the story. The process is about what steps they are going through (usually in their mind) that’s causing them to experience the situation the way they are.
As stated by Eckhart Tolle—
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but the thought about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral.
I believe one of the roles of a coach is to ask questions enabling the client to separate their thoughts about a situation from the actual situation. When one is able to do this they will come up with powerful options to move them a step closer to what they want, which is ultimately to feel good, rather getting caught up in changing details that my not be true. (Like trying to get their boss to like them when he already does.)
It is actually possible to have a coaching session without finding out any content at all and I have demonstrated this at many NLP trainings. I am not saying to make your coaching sessions completely content free. I am saying be aware of staying away from the content if it will not benefit the client to go into it. Don’t let your curiosity about the next door neighbour's cat make you ask questions that will take the client off track.
Each time you go to ask a question think to yourself:
- Will this benefit the coaching session or am I just being curious?”
- How can I ask this in a way that is questioning ‘how they are experiencing’ the situation rather then questioning the situation?
E.g. “What are you experiencing that you feel upset about?” rather than “What is happening that is making you upset?” I know, subtle difference but very important.
- When you ask questions about content a person will tend to get defensive and go into blame. If questions are about the way they are processing something they are more likely to have an Ah-ha moment, feel empowered and want to make a change.
E.g. “How do you experience someone not liking you? How do you experience someone liking you? rather then “Tell me more about your relationship with your boss?”
I would love to hear your take on this.
Have you experienced being coached or coaching someone where there was too much focus on content and it got off track?
What do you do to stay away from getting caught up in the content?