Helena Clayton | Metaphors to coach by…
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Metaphors to coach by…

13 Nov 2015, Posted by Helena Clayton in Monthly Blog

Funny what sticks with you, isn’t it?

I was a participant recently on a coaching workshop where the facilitator mentioned two images, almost as asides. Throwaway, almost. And yet they’ve really stayed with me.

The first was, when listening to your coaching client, to let yourself be as impressionable as a piece of soft clay. I loved that image, as it recognises that as a coach, I am always being influenced and shaped by what my client is talking about or how they’re feeling. And, of course, it’s a two-way street, we’re in a system, my client and I: it’s what I take to supervision, after all, the things that I am left with after a coaching session, the counter-transference. But it got me wondering: actually, to what extent might I set an intention to be open to being influenced or shaped by my client? What is it that I allow to create an impression and what do I defend and protect against? Am I listening with my body as well as my intellect? Am I impressionable at an intuitive level? Do I come into a session already hardened and baked? Is there such a thing as too impressionable? And what would I need to do, how would I need to be to be more open and more like soft clay?

A second image was the extent to which we could be like a clearing in a forest for our client, creating an inviting, calm and still space for the client to step into. I like that. As a coach, there’s often the assumption that we ‘push out’ in some way, perhaps the pressure to ask the killer question, or to make a piercing and astute observation. But there’s the opposite that’s required too. And the image reminds me of the Rumi quote: ‘out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there’s a field. I’ll meet you there’. What could it be like if two people, even a coach and a client with all that assumes about power, the financial transaction and the goals or accountabilities and politics… what if, as a coach and a client, we could meet in that way? What might be possible? And my wondering took me this time to: to what extent can I create a clearing in the forest for myself? (that’s my meditation practice, I realise). How can I step back a little when I’m coaching, and rest in that clearing myself? How can I best find ‘the space between’ in coaching which seems to me to be what that clearing affords me.

I said that these images had stuck with me, and maybe I was like soft clay that day because what I’m noticing in my practice these last few weeks is that my coaching is subtly different. I think I’m using my intuition more, as opposed to my rational mind. I fancy I am more still, tuning into to myself and the client in a different way. I think I’m paying more attention to what my body is telling me is going on. And my questions and responses seem softer, somehow, a little gentler but perhaps more on-point. And that feels right.

Funny what sticks with you, isn’t it?

With thanks to Justin Wise for the initial images and inadvertent inspiration. You’ll find his wonderful blog On Living and Working at justinwise.co.uk

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