When I was trained as a mediator – 10 years before embarking on my coach training in 1999 – we were also taught the importance of paraphrasing, reframing, and summarizing and that these competencies demonstrate good listening and empathy. I was happy they were considered core competencies by the International Coaching Federation when I started my coaching journey and had already developed strong skills in this regard. Then, a series of things occurred, and I began to question the extent to which these skills are always truly effective.
The reality is our perceptions of our clients’ words and experiences come from our lenses, our intuition, and our assumptions and do not necessarily reflect theirs as much as we may think. Our attempts to use these skills might not always be appropriate or well-received and expecting clients to correct us if we do not have it right may be more of a disservice to them.
A first realization that I was questioning these skills was when I was creating a model for coaching people to strengthen their conflict competence. Colleagues and I interviewed and coached over 50 individuals who participated in year-long research. During this time, we tried a range of coaching techniques to discover what worked most effectively to move people along the continuum of where they were to where they wanted to be. In doing so, we regularly included the above-mentioned techniques. Besides wanting to develop a specific coaching model I wanted to discover if the same techniques I had been using necessarily applied in the context of conflict management coaching and whether different tools might be helpful.
One of the findings was that most people involved in the study said they did not find that reframing, summarizing, and paraphrasing moved them along their journey. Nor, did they experience that these skills necessarily demonstrated empathy or good listening. I was surprised though admit many of the subjects’ comments resonated with my own experiences as a coaching client and what I observed about the impact of these skills when supervising trainee coaches. So, I undertook to find out why these skills were not well received by so many.Download Article 1K Club