Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Beáta Kovács (Hungary).

From among the great variety of coaching tools the most fascinating and multifaceted tool is the language of coaching. It is such a complex field that it always has new territories to explore and subtleties to master. Personally, I enjoy combining different coaching approaches and techniques in terms of language use as well. In my article I will highlight several language tools of coaching that empower your sessions and affect the quality of coaching conversations in a positive way.

First, I will give a general overview of the language of coaching and its impact on the coaching process, then I will share with you several practical tools and tips that I have found to possess a most transformative effect on the coaching procedure.

What is the Language of Coaching Like?

It includes both the verbal aspects, that is, the words uttered by the coach and the coachee and the non-verbal aspects of the conversation like body language and tonality among many others. In this article the focus will only be on the verbal aspects, however one should keep in mind that to enhance understanding our clients and help solving their problems it is essential to pay careful attention to both factors. Sometimes what is said is less important than how it is said, therefore it is essential for a coach to listen for both verbal and non-verbal language to identify the actual state of the clients and the signs of changes that will lead them to their desired solution.

How Does Language Impact the Process of Coaching?

As a coach you need the ability to adapt to your client and one way to make it happen is through the language you use. In any phase of the coaching session, it is equally significant to use such language that establishes trust and a supportive space. It should also reflect your empathy and awareness and express your exclusive focus on your coachee. If a coach works according to this the quality of the conversation improves and makes the client more stimulated and empowered.

So that a coaching session was ground for transformation and growth it is essential to use certain language tools that enhance progress towards the coachee’s solution. In the following part of my article I will write about those language tools that I have found exceptionally powerful during my coaching sessions. I would like to point out whichever tools are being used, quality is more important than quantity and sometimes silence is more useful than a bunch of questions.

The 3 Pillars of the Language of Coaching

I organized my favourite language tools into three groups and named them the three pillars. Each of these pillars is supported by a compilation of language tools and tips that I find exceptionally impactful while coaching.

Pillar 1: Powerful Language Tools to Enhance Transformation and Creativity

  • They are my personal favourites. They are very frequent elements of our everyday speech, they can express our unconscious feelings and thoughts. If you identify one, make your client describe it for you instead of interpreting it subjectively for yourself. You can ask, ‘What kind of….is that…?’ This is a key sentence of Clean Language questioning technique, which I have incorporated into my coaching sessions many times with really fantastic outcomes. Unfolding metaphors will help your clients leave their problems behind and start their journey towards their goals.
  • Powerful questions. To explore possible options and outcomes and help the coachee come up with new constructive ideas open-ended questions should be used preferably, since yes/no questions might lead the conversation to a dead-end. Questions beginning with ‘What…’set the stage for later questions beginning with ‘How’ when the coaching conversations go to a deeper level and focus on the process itself. ‘Why’ questions are really impactful, they eliminate on the core of motivation that will engage and empower your clients and pull them towards their goals and stay committed.
  • Enhancing Creativity. There are certain questions that are really powerful, for instance ‘How will you notice that change will have happened?’ A question like this enhances the creativity of the coachee and makes them describe the aimed future in more details. Questions beginning with ‘What else….?’ –which is a key brief coaching question-also help the coachee think deeper about the given situation and provide room for creativity.
  • Perspective shifting. ‘What would you like instead?’ or ‘What would you like to see change in your life?’ or ‘What if the opposite were true?’ These are really effective when you intend to make a shift and a change of perspective from being problem oriented to being solution focused.
  • Tense shift. When the coachee is speaking about past successes try to move the language of the past into the present and then into the future where the real change will happen.
  • When the coachee uses ‘might’ or ‘would’, in the background of which there are underlying limiting beliefs very often, you should change them into ‘will’. Afterwards you can ask ‘What does it feel like now?’ This powerful question will move your client forward in the coaching progress towards their goals.
  • If your client uses negative language, repeat their words by paraphrasing the negative words into positive ones. For example the coachee says: ‘I am not making any progress.’ you say: ‘As I can hear you would like to make more progress.’ You can also repeat what your client has said by adding the magic word ‘YET’ to the sentence. Commenting on a negative remark of the client with the word YET shows that there is hope and it makes them move forward.

Pillar 2: The Language of Appreciation

By appreciative language you presume your coachee’s positive intent and the presupposition that they have their own resources to solve their problems and reach their goals. Here are a few examples of this:

  • Use the language of your client to build rapport and show that you believe in your client.
  • Choose your words consciously. When you paraphrase what your coachee said, change ‘I’ to ‘you’ and use synonyms or metaphors. This will show that you have listened, understood and have been present. The briefer the paraphrasing is the more impactful it is and it will not sound parroting then.

Pillar 3: The Power of Silence

Sometimes less is more. Speak only when the time is right and let silence work. Even though sometimes you might feel the urge to ask a new question again and again, be patient and allow time for silence. It is very often the time when new creative ideas are born.

Another Benefit of Impactful Language Use

All the previously mentioned techniques help coachees overcome their hurdles quicker. Apart from the positive impact of appropriate and effective language use on the outcome of the coaching sessions, I would like to highlight one more benefit of it. Step by step the coachees will also acquire a different language use and integrate it into their everyday life, as a consequence of which their mind-sets will change as well. Furthermore, all of these changes might affect their immediate environment in a positive way too. It is really amazing how far this chain reaction can reach beyond the coaching process.

As we have seen, language itself is an exceptionally influential and exciting coaching tool with endless potentials. Exploiting them will have an absolutely transformative impact on the coaching process and will definitely raise it to a higher and more professional level.

Beáta KovácsAbout Beáta Kovács

Beáta works as a qualified language and career coach. She is also a trainer and mentor of language teachers. Beáta is the founder and leader of iCoachU Studio in Budapest, Hungary.

Language and career coaching are the key areas of my coaching practice. With language coaching, she supports her clients to overcome any obstacles they encounter when learning a foreign language. She also helps them get rid of their limiting beliefs, become self-confident and apply learning techniques that suit their individuality the best. Beáta also helps them prepare for foreign language challenges like giving presentations. During career coaching. she supports people to uncover the career they want, make a transition for a new career and prepare for job interviews.

She trains and mentor teachers of foreign languages from all over Hungary to become instructors using a coaching mindset. It is her mission to popularize language coaching and get more and more people acquainted with it in the foreign language classroom and in the corporate environment as well.



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