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Coaching: The Power of Clarifying (on ICF Blog) by Sirirat Siriwan

Apart from questioning and listening, clarifying is one of the most powerful coaching skills. A great coach needs to be the great clarifier. A great clarifier needs to be a great listener.

In the beginning of a coaching session, a coachee usually starts the conversation by telling a coach his situation (which includes a lot of story details and characters, as well as describing of all related emotions). An interpretation of the situation based on his paradigm or ego impacts the way he has expressed the issue. The mixture of fact and interpretation can create confusion, frustration and bias for him. A coachee feels his interpretation is a fact, even though it may not be. His interpretation is just the way he sees the world, but it seems so real for him. So, he will respond to that situation with his blurring eyes.

A coach’s responsibility is helping a coachee get rid of the blurring and to create an understanding of what the real issue is. The ability of a coach to deeply listen and distinguish between facts and interpretations, as well as mindfully point them out to a coachee are significant for creating a coachee’s self-awareness, learning, and growing.

Clarifying is the best proof of how deeply a coach listens to his coachee. A coach who has listened to his coachee actively and profoundly will be able to access what hides under the coachee’s expressing words. The spirit and ability of a coach in letting go of himself to listen to another person completely with no bias and judgment will help him to deeply understand and be able to contribute succinct and sharp clarification of statement that awakes his coachee up. It’s like turning on the light in the darkness of a coachee’s mind.

During a coaching conversation, a coach can use clarifying comments anytime to make the point clearer. The benefit is, not only for himself as a coach, to gain clarity of the real issue and create mutual understanding, but also for the coachee to gain self-awareness, and be ready to move forward to the right direction or find the solutions that suits him.

Examples of clarifying statements and phases in coaching conversation:

– Based on what you have just said, it sounds like the main issue of this situation is communication across function. Am I correct?
– Sounds like you are looking for a way to make the right decision of your future career.
– Based on what you have shared with me, I can summarize by dividing it into three main points: (1) You have accepted that your boss gave you a lot of opportunities; (2) You are afraid that she will be disappointed by your current performance; and (3) You want to do something to start over again. Did I cover them all?

The values of clarifying in coaching conversation are as follows:

– To identify the real coaching issue.
– To clarify coaching expectations.
– To create focus of coaching conversation.
– To create a coachee’s self-awareness.
– To help a coachee understand his current realities.
– To help a coachee move forward with learning and growing to the right direction that really suits him.
– To make the sure coaching process proceeds efficiently.

In conclusion, a coach doesn’t need to be a knowledgeable person of the coachee’s issue, but he needs to become a ‘Crystal Mirror’ to reflect realities. With the combination of great communication skills and the emptiness of the coach’s mind, clarification will provide the most valuable information that helps coachees discover, grow, and create positive change and significant impact for their lives.

The Power of Listening by Sirirat Siriwan on International Coach Federation

Listening is the most important skill in conducting effective coaching conversation. A coach can learn the most about their coachee by deep listening with no judgment and attachment. How deeply a coach listens to the coachee critically affects the quality and results of coaching in creating the coachee’s self-awareness and learning. Trust and intimacy between coach and coachee are built on the coach’s active listening skills. A coach who is skillful listener will be able to ask powerful questions and provide depth and valuable clarifying that reflect coachee perception and emotion, which impact on coachee self discovery and moving forward.

As the gained benefits of my coachee are the center of coaching conversation, my main focus is on developing and practicing my active listening skills. I believe that listening is the most challenging part for all coaches. Listening with no judgment and attachment takes a lot of mind practice. A coach’s self-awareness plays a significant role to make sure they are maintaining a neutral perspective while expressing empathic listening and acknowledgement. Even a coach who prepares himself/herself well before the coaching conversation can be careless at some moments and judge the coachee during the coaching conversation. Of course, the coachee can feel or sense judgment from the coach, based on the questions the coach has asked or the feedback provided, which may result in loss of trust.

To develop and practice active listening skills, I would like to share some of my guidelines as below:
Before any coaching conversation, I will…
• Put my own paradigm, knowledge, and experience aside. Remind myself of my coach role in understanding, not judging.
• Make sure there is no personal agenda or any attachments of the result of coaching conversation.
• Empty my mind, no thinking of anything in advance. This lets my intuition and intelligence work naturally on the foundation of integration of coaching skills and process.
• Practice mindfulness and self-awareness by listening to myself every moment, observing what I think and feel. (To observe ourselves is the most challenging way and much more difficult than observing of other people. So, practicing with ourselves is a great and impactful way to start.)

During any coaching conversation, I will…
• Be completely in present with my coachee and follow them 100%. I just dance with their insights.
• Listen to not only what my coachee says, but also his/her emotions, motivations, values, and paradigms behind their words.
• Catch my coachee’s emotional state and energy from his/her eyes and body languages, especially facial expression, as well as their voice and tone of voice.
• Notice languages coachee uses. It may demonstrate his/her thinking pattern, values, and interpretation.
• Be self-awareness through coaching conversation. If judging occurs in any steps of conversation, I can be aware of it and get rid of it right away.

Hopefully, these guidelines will be helpful. The more a coach expresses their active and profound listening to coachee, the more the coachee will learn and grow. People always need to be listened and understood. It’s the greatest way of encouragement and reinforcement to develop people to positive and more sustainable changes. It’s like giving the coachee oxygen. The more oxygen absorbed by the coachee, the more he/she becomes open and reasonable, and finally able to discover themselves and finally unleash their potentials.

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