3. Humor as a non-verbal communication tool … Cartoons!
Let me explain why I focus on humor as a non-verbal communication tool.
After clarifying the benefits of humor in general, I would like to explore the benefits of humor as a non-verbal communication tool.
As we all know, coaching is mainly verbal communication. On the other hand, words have also their limitations. Sometimes a non-verbal communication tool can be more effective than thousand words. Let my clarify this by telling 2 stories.
I read a story about a CEO who gave a wonderful speech one hour after the financial crisis in 2008 was real. What was so impressive about the speech? The CEO shared 4 points on how the company could deal with this big challenge. Everyone was thrilled, enthusiast, … The CEO succeeded in letting go the employees’ fear of losing their job.
That same evening the managers entered his office. None of them could remember all 4 points, even though all of them were thrilled by them. That made the CEO start thinking. With some external support he changed those 4 complex points into 4 simple pictures and circulated them to his executives. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The 4 points were simple, clear and visual.
A long time ago I was attending a session on presentation skills. The ‘mentor’ told us that, as time goes by, only 5% of a PowerPoint presentation will be remembered. And do you know what will be remembered? The visual part.
Both stories inspired me. How can this be useful during our coaching sessions? Can we color our coaching sessions with some non-verbal communication tools? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some tools to send out a clear message in 1 second? Wouldn’t it be amazing if that message would lighten up the coaching session as well? YES! It is possible! Cartoons can!
The art of cartoons reminds us the language of the Stone Age man, who used to draw pictures on cave walls to express his feelings. After this era, many new languages came in to existence. Now once again, after having plenty of languages all over the world, we have to use the old art of Stone Age man for global communication, which is now known as cartoons. Today, cartoon can be termed as the most advanced language of the world, as it is beyond boundaries, Triambak Sharma, Indian cartoonist.
What are the benefits of using cartoons?
Besides the benefits of using humor in general (see above), here are some additional benefits of using cartoons:
- A cartoon can communicate more effectively than an article of 1000 words.
- Because of the combination of humor and brevity, cartoons are a great way to share information and ideas.
- Cartoons can encapsulate an idea or message in a single image.
- A cartoon can be absorbed quickly.
- A cartoon can be shared easily.
- Pictures/cartoons bring vividness.
- A cartoon, as a short and vivid picture, is a great tool of visualization. The visual methaphor aids clarity and simplicity.
- A cartoon can be hanged on a wall or can be put on a desk.
- A cartoon speaks a universal/global language. A cartoon without WORD is a cartoon for whole WORLD.
When can we use it?
Cartoons can be used in many ways. Just keep some golden rules in mind: ask the client’s permission to show and use it in a natural way. There is NO need to show a cartoon just because of having one. It is a tool in a coach’s toolbox.
- Face-to-face vs tele-coachingAt first sight face-to-face coaching seems the most convenient way of showing a cartoon. But this is not the only option. Due to the amazing world of telecommunication we are able to show a picture/cartoon by using a webcam or by sending the cartoon as an attachement in an email or an online chat.
- During vs after a coaching sessionA cartoon can be shown on different moments, as long as it feels natural. As always, the coach’s intuition is in charge.
During a coaching session:
Coach: “I have the impression you are delaying that conversation with your collegues. Is this impression right?
Client: “Hmmm ... To be honest ... Yes I do. I know I need that conversation to move forward. But I’m afraid of having it ...
Coach: “It seems to me that you are a strong person ... You dealt with though situations in the past, with great succes. I have a nice cartoon that can support you in having that conversation. Would you like to see it?”.
At the end of a coaching session, when the coach is asking the client for his/her takeaway, the coach can support the client by sending over a cartoon:
Coach: “Thank you for your takeaways. I hear you will have that conversation with your collegues next week and that you will share the outcome in our next session. In order to support you in having that conversation, I have a nice cartoon on this. Would it be helpful to send it over?”
Client: “Please do. I will print it out and put it in front of my desk J.”
And here is the cartoon!
- Individual vs group coaching
A cartoon can be used in individual and in group coaching. Personally I find cartoons very interesting during group coaching. They can be used for initiating a discussion, to get vividnes into the session or to capture the main points of the discussions. And laughing together rises the energy level, remember?After the session, the participants can hang the cartoon on their wall or put them on their desk.
What should a coach be aware of?
Besides the riks of using humor in general (see above), here are some additional elements a coach should be aware of:
- Don’t use another persons’ cartoon, cartoon strip or illustration and attempt to make it look like it’s yours. Give credit where credit is due. Ask for permission. So did I J.
- Ask the client for permission to show.
- Make sure you have your cartoon(s) at hand. If not, send it/them over after the session.