Research Paper By Chloe Moodley
(Passion Coaching, UNITED STATES)
Coaching has transformed the way people think, communicate and respond to a kaleidoscope of issues in their lives. The fundamental tool of this change is the language used by trainers and coaches. Whether this is done on the telephone or face to face, the same positive life-changing results take place. The choice, speed, and connection of words, the modulation of voice tone, the interjections, the sound of silence, the time taken to respond, and the timing, catapults the client into a place of self-awareness and self-realization enabling them to reach realistic goals within a measurable time period. This report describes 24 cases of trainers, student coaches who have recently graduated or are completing their studies, clients who have been coached, and leaders or mentors who have no experience with coaching. The findings reveal that the language of trainers and coaches enable clients to reframe their perspective through exploration and discovery.
Keywords: language, communication, phrases, questions, interpretation, metaphors
Imagine a table with four legs being dissembled into five or more separate pieces. How can a leg be called a ‘leg’ if it does not support anything? It is just a piece of wood and could be anything. The same goes with language. Stringing together a specific choice of words, spoken at a certain pace, tone and time can become a whole concept that has form and purpose. In the sphere of my observation, I have witnessed trainers and coaches transform the thought processes of clients. Active listening, powerful questioning, intuition and observation of every vocal nuance is captured and transmitted in a perfect flow of language between coach and client.
Language is the unconscious filtering system we use to express our experiences. Most of our perception happens through the language we use to code incoming information.
Clients speak at different levels of specificity: sometimes with great detail and other times very abstract. Trainers and coaches create rapport with clients by understanding this, and communicate it back by using their language so that it gives clients a new perspective. What is this language spoken by trainers and coaches that cause such dynamic transformation especially when the trainer or coach speaks for only about 20% of the conversation?
There were four groups consisting of five participants except the Focus Group which consisted of four participants:
The Control Group consisted of five corporate leaders or mentors who have never been coached but have heard about it. The group called non-coach non-client (NCNC), used experiences and some leadership training to communicate. To demonstrate the language of coaches, the Trainer Group consisted of experienced professional trainer coaches. This set the standardized language by which other systems were measured. The Student Coach Group consisted of students from ICA who recently graduated or are close to it. The Client Group consisted of various clients. The only criteria for the selection process depended on the group. Finally, the Focus Group consisted of four independent participants represented all four groups.
The methodological approach for investigating this qualitative research was based on three corresponding questionnaires: Trainers and Student Coaches, Clients, and NCNC.
All questions were based on observations in coaching sessions and readings over a period of four months. Certain words were altered to reflect the applicable position of each group. NCNC answers reflected clients and work colleagues. Once affirmation of participation came from the subjects, the questionnaires were emailed with a deadline for responses. On collection of the data, the Focus Group discussed the findings. This report reflects a collation of these findings.
Change in Choice of Words and Communication Styles
Trainers changed their choice of words, tone, use of silence and the way they communicate, to bring about self-awareness and self-realization in clients. Student Coaches said their choice of words did not change but their communication style did. Clients acknowledged coaches for verbal reflection that brought about self-awareness. NCNC felt there was no need to change their communication style.
Adopted Phrases and Questions Used by Other Coaches
Trainers and Student Coaches gave examples of phrases they adopted from other coaches. Clients said the questions coaches asked were a great motivation to move forward. NCNC said they probably use phrases they’ve heard other people use, but are unaware of it.
Development of One’s Own Set of Phrases and Questions
Trainers have developed their own set of questions over time whereas Student Coaches have not. Clients gave examples of questions that coaches use frequently. One question most clients commented on was ‘What’s your takeaway?’ NCNC said they usually get to the point about business.
Awareness of Communication Style and Patterns
Trainers maintain a diplomatic approach depending on the client. They have an overall structure during their sessions. Student Coaches said they have greater curiosity and try to be good listeners by being empathetic and conversational. Clients do not observe structure but use silence as space to think and answer the question. NCNC soften or harden their style for people.
Same Mode of Communication in Personal Life
Trainers have adopted some coaching communication into their personal lives. They’ve learned how to see things from others’ perspectives and have developed the ability to listen without offering advice. Student Coaches do not use coaching communication in their personal life. NCNC separate their work from their personal life.
Use of Imagery, Visualization, Metaphors and Analogies in Communication
Trainers frequently use all of the above as reference points. Most Student Coaches do not use imagery as much as they would like to. Clients relate to imagery and visuals and use it as a motivational tool to move toward their goal. NCNC do not use imagery and referred to the use of graphs instead.