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A Coaching Challenge

I invite you to take my Challenge, and eliminate three words from your vocabulary.

Should is a very demeaning word.

When using should with someone or with yourself, it is an aggressive tactic. When you tell someone they should or should not have said or done something, they immediately feel defensive, forced to explain their actions or decisions.Try substituting could for should. By asking what could have been done differently, feedback turns the focus from a judgmental, negative past to a cooperative, positive future.

Why is a confrontational word.

usually delivered in an accusatory, negative tone of voice. Why did you do that? Why didn’t you do this instead? Again, the person on the receiving end feels defensive, and compelled to explain their choices. Instead, substitute what for why. By asking what happened, coming from a place of curiosity, judgment is suspended and conversation, rather than argument, ensues.

But is a condescending word.

It negates whatever was said before it. If someone speaks, and you respond with but, you imply that what they said was wrong, and that you know better. Often, a but is anticipated because of the tone of voice preceding it. Have you ever thought or said, “I hear a but coming on?” I prefer and as a connecting word. It acknowledges what the other person has said, and allows a different perspective to be expressed, without any sense of competition or judgment.

Finally, I challenge you to ask only open-ended questions. Closed-ended (yes/no) questions have a place when seeking clarity. Otherwise, all other questions become open-ended when starting with who, what, when, where, how, or tell me about.

Apply the Challenge in all of your conversations, not just in your coaching. Apply it with your family members (including children), friends, colleagues, strangers, and especially, teens. You might find it difficult at first, and you may slip many times. Once you utilize the Challenge in all of your communications, it will eventually become habit. Notice the difference in how people react to your changed communication style.

You will be surprised at how much easier it is to deal with difficult situations, once you eliminate confrontational words and ask open, non-judgmental questions.

You may also be surprised at how much information people share with you when they are not threatened by your words or tone of voice.

Nan Einarson is a Mentor Coach and Trainer for CTA’s Certified Coach Program. She is an experienced veteran of coaching and author of the Do It Yourself Relationship Repair Guide.

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