Teaching Healthy Communication Skills
Take a moment to reflect on people you respect and admire, and I am sure you will find someone who is a skilled communicator. They most likely listen well and convey thoughts clearly in an organized (and sometimes entertaining) manner, and are usually good givers and receivers of information.
It is my belief that every coach and therapist should strive to be the best communicator they can be. This means asking the right questions, at the right time, both of our clients and of ourselves. It also means listening well, being open to, and willing to deal with the answers.
What continually amazes and saddens me is how long people go through life avoiding or not asking the important questions. Is it because they do not want to know the answers? Is it because knowing the answers would put pressure on them to change? Or are they are just stuck in an unhealthy pattern of communication?
As helping professionals, we know that oftentimes even the thought of change provokes too much fear and anxiety. Deep down, we know that in order to help our clients fulfill their potential in life, to achieve success in their own eyes and others, and to be truly happy, they must explore the difficult questions and seek the answers that will lead to their growth and ultimately the attainment of happiness and fulfillment.
One of my clients was reflecting on her recent success in changing jobs. We discussed how she had failed to get this goal accomplished with a previous coach, and I asked her why this time she was able to be successful with the same goal. Her answer was simple, and without even thinking she said, “you asked me questions no one else had asked me. You went beyond my evasive answer and helped me to delve more deeply. Once I understood what was really getting in the way of my success you encouraged me to devise a strategy to deal with it, and you held me accountable.”
Reflecting back over the years as a coach, consultant, and therapist my most memorable instances of success with my clients were largely dependent on how well I did the following:
- Asked timely and thought provoking questions
- Delved more deeply when needed
- Listened and demonstrated listening
- Conveyed caring
- Demonstrated respect
- Shown admiration
- Reinforced even small successes
- Exercised humility and the desire to become a better person/professional
- Sought supervision and feedback on my approach with clients
In order for me to approach each client with this strength-based coaching frame of mind, I first had to come to the following realizations:
My Realizations About My Clients
- They demonstrate courage just getting to the appointment
- They always have something to teach me
- They have special gifts that I don’t
- They have unique strengths-even though their weaknesses may be the reason for our work together
- They have what it takes, within them, to succeed
- They are their ultimate reason for their success-not me
As coaches and therapists, we know that by asking timely and challenging questions in an honest and open way, both of our clients and ourselves that we can serve as a model for healthy communication skills. This is one of the greatest, most everlasting gifts we could give our clients.