Lynn Schoener 
October 17th, 2013 
Lynn Schoener
As a coach and consultant to organizations in transition, I work with leaders to develop coaching cultures and  improve employee satisfaction, team performance, and engagement.  My coaching work with individuals is designed to help them through...Read More 
Silence the coachSpeak


My husband John made a comment to our dinner guests Saturday night, one that I've heard him make before, but have never fully understood.

"I can always tell when Lynn's going into 'coach mode,' and when I hear it coming," John declared, "I head it off at the pass." We all had a good laugh, and yet part of me didn't get it, and didn't think it was all that funny.

I'm the first to say that one should be wary of coaching one's spouse. With most issues your beloved might struggle with, you can't stand in the agenda-free space so important for a coach to occupy. If you have a strong opinion or a preferred outcome, camouflaging your position within the coaching process doesn't work. But since I don't coach John when I have skin in the game, I didn't think his comment was related to me advancing my interests under the cover of coaching questions. What has he been trying to tell me, though, about my approach?

Today, I circled back to the conversation. "I'm curious about what you meant when you told Rick and Lisa that I go into 'coach mode' -- and that you defend against it. What do I do or say, exactly, that puts you off?"

"It's your coachy language," he explained. "When you use words like 'unpack' and 'container,' it bugs me."

"When I have coached you on an issue, is it ever helpful? Have I ever helped you solve a problem, get to a better decision?" I genuinely wanted his truth and was not, for once, fishing for affirmation.

"You help me all the time. I like it when you coach me, as long as you speak my language."

"What's your language?"

"You know, normal language," he said, managing his slight annoyance at having to spell it out for me. "The words normal people say."

The norm for John is engineerSpeak. Specifically, industrial engineering, which is all about studying processes to find efficiencies. It's such a part of his DNA that he assumes it is the world's universal language. I checked for understanding. "So you'd rather I say 'structure' or 'process' instead of 'container,' and you'd relate to the words 'examine' or 'break down' better than 'unpack' -- have I got that right?"

"Right. Like I said, normal words."

Who are you coaching? What is their lingo? Listen for their favorite phrases, their well-used words. Are there certain metaphors they revisit, which, when described out loud to you, help them decode the language of their heart? Make your coachees feel even more understood and respected by speaking in their native tongue.

If you ever coach me, by the way, please use 'container' and 'unpack' -- I like the language of luggage. The first book I ever bought on transition was "Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life" by Richard Leider and David Shapiro. Just reading the title makes me feel energized. What words speak to you and for you? Can you lean into a bilingual way of being when you coach?



Copyright 2013 by Lynn Schoener



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