~Written by Michael Hall~

Unpacking The Depth And Finding The Critical Things In A Coaching Conversation

If you start from the idea that hidden inside of your client’s statement are much deeper references, then you will more likely to slow the coaching conversation down and do more exploration and more quality exploration.
Would you be interested in this? As far as I can tell, most coaches go far, far too fast in their coaching. They need to slow down. The client also goes far too fast. For that reason both of them miss things- critical things.
One of the sources of this idea is Transformational Grammar. Chomsky’s formatting of T.G. was that into surface statements and the deep structure.
The “transformations” of grammar occur from one level to the next. He used this to describe how the deep structure of experiential meaning is transferred into the statements that we make- which amount to a surface statement. To get behind it, to get inside it, to get deeper inside is to probe into the experiential meaning. In Neuro-Semantics we call this the framing structure and picture it as “meta” to the surface level statements.
This is also the design of the Meta-Model. By identify structural facets of the deep structure- the linguistic descriptions or distinctions (mind-reading, cause-effect, complex equivalence, nominalization, etc.) we can move back and forth from experiential meaning to surface statement.
That is, behind or within the statement are many deeper distinctions- if only you ask.

How do we do this?

In Meta-Coaching, we use the sub-skills in a given category of skill to explore and unpack the deeper levels. We use clarity checks of terms, we ask for specificity, we repeat phrases so the client can hear him or herself, we calibrate to a gesture and ask the client to bring it into conscious awareness, we repeat a word or phrase and “hold” it in the conversation and then “work it” to explore its ramifications, we ask about metaphors to find the hidden comparisons, we ask for examples to get a visual-auditory referent, we validate symptoms and back up to find their cause, and so on.
Unpacking the depth that lies behind or within words, gestures, and experiences is not easy, yet it is also not Rocket Science. It typically involves a rigorous discipline to learn how to become competent at it.
Lets practice.
“I feel stuck. It’s terrible, I just cannot get myself to stop procrastinating.” A simple statement of three phrases and yet several semantically loaded words within that sentence: “stuck, terrible, can’t.”
Time to unpack.
You are stuck in what? “Fear and insecurity.”
Fear of what? “That I won’t be able to do it.”
You are afraid you won’t be able to do … what? “Success as a coach in private practice.”
And how much fear are you talking about? “A lot, at a level of 8 on a zero to ten scale.”
And what is the fear about? Fear that what threat or danger will occur? “That I will fail.”
Fail means what? “Not succeeding.” (Now going in circles.)

Coaching Conversations – What is the worse thing that will happen if you fail and not succeed?

“Waste money, look like a fool, hate myself.”
How much money will you waste? “$3,000!”
What did you spend that money on? Training and some promotional materials.”
How much on the training? “$2,500.” How much on the promotions? “$500.”
How are you using the word “wasted?” You got nothing out of the training?
“Okay, then $500.”
Who looks upon you as a fool for investing $500 to pursue your passion?
“Well, I guess me.” You do? “Yeah.”
And you then hate yourself? “Yeah.”
And you do that to achieve what outcome? “Yeah, I know, just self-pity.”
So how stuck are you now in this fear and insecurity? “Well it seems kind of silly now, I guess 4 or 5.”
Will that stop you from trying again, persisting, learning, adjusting?

The very act of exploring and unpacking the depth of meanings inside of words and gestures is often (and usually) an intervention in and of itself.

Isn’t that amazing?! You are just doing information gathering and the way you do that enables you to simultaneously facilitate the remaking of meaning.

How can you learn to do this?

Step into the state of mind of being a detective, assume you do not know what the other person is referring to and ask lots of dumb questions. That will take you a long way. After that, be playful. Play around with what is said to lighten things up. Someone says “I want to be present when I coach, but I can’t; my mind just goes away.”
Oh, your mind just goes away. Pause. Then repeat. Your mind goooesss away. Pause. And where does it go? Did you send it there? Do you want it to go there? You don’t? It is being a naughty mind? Or is it being attracted to something more interesting? Is it bored?
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