Parallel conversations and coaching 1

Coach Liz Scott shares her expertise and knowledge in today’s guest post.

Parallel conversations and coaching

by Liz Scott

What’s a parallel conversation? Let me give you an example. The other day I was meeting a friend for coffee at ‘Marsh Mills Sainsbury’s. She was late – so I thought I’d give her a call.

On answering the phone she assured me that she had already arrived and was waiting for me. Whilst still on the phone I looked around the cafe but she was nowhere to be seen. She was insistent that she was there and said she was moving towards the till and the food counter. Still I could see no one.

It was very frustrating; I stood up too and said I was moving towards the food counter could she see me? This conversation carried on for what seemed an age (but was only about a minute!). “You are at Marsh Mills?” She asked me. “Yes,” I said, “I’m at the Sainsbury’s café.”

Suddenly the penny dropped and we realised that we had arrived in different locations. I had gone to Sainsbury’s she had gone to a pub called ‘Marsh Mills’. We had been having a parallel conversation on the phone, both thinking we were talking about the same thing, but meaning something very different.

It’s a great reminder for coaching. Never assume you really know what your client it talking about. As the words come out of their mouth you will no doubt understand some of what they are saying. However, there is an iceberg of meaning beneath the surface: most of which you’ll never have access to. When they talk of ‘stress’ or ‘efficiency’ or ‘feeling vulnerable’ you will never really understand what it means. If you do make an assumption and you get it wrong it can jolt the client out of their journey of discovery.

How do you avoid going down the road of a parallel conversation? Don’t feel you have to be wise, or smart or overly clever. Use the language that they are using, and have a light touch. Remember – less is more. This means never assume you know what they really mean and give them the space to resolve whatever they need. If you can do this then you will find your coaching can become incredibly powerful.

About the Author/Further Resources

Liz Scott is the co-founder of Coaching Connect.  Coaching Connect brings coaches together to share experience and expertise both on the web and at popular coaching events.  Meet like minded coaches at the next Coaching Connect events on March 16th click for details.