Cover picture: Sam & Jeffrey Adriaens - Fuenzalida
TABLE OF CONTENTS
3 TECHNIQUES FOR COACHING ..............................317
3.1. ACTIVE LISTENING ...................................................317
3.2. ASKING QUESTIONS ..................................................330
3.3 HERON’S 6 CATEGORIES OF INTERVENTION....360
3.4 RESPONSIVENESS .......................................................362
3.5 GIVING FEEDBACK.....................................................364
3.6 FRAMING - REFRAMING ...........................................372
3.7 REALITY CHECK .........................................................383
3.8 SCALING TECHNIQUES.............................................385
3.9 EXTERNALISING OF PROBLEMS ...........................389
3.10 CREATING RAPPORT ...............................................393
3.11 COLLABORATION BUILDING................................402
3.12 SAYING “NO”...............................................................422
3.13 I-MESSAGES ................................................................432
3.15 CREATIVE THINKING ..............................................449
3.16 TURNING PROBLEMS INTO POSSIBILITIES .....491
3.17 SUMMARIZE, EVALUATE AND WRAP UP...........498
3.18 ENACTING ...................................................................509
3.19 THE MIRACLE QUESTION.......................................525
3.20 SHARING INFORMATION........................................530
3.21 SELF DISCLOSURE ....................................................533
3.22 USING INTUITION......................................................542
3.23 RECOGNISE LIFE PATTERNS.................................550
3.24 BREAKING THE DRAMA TRIANGLE....................604
3.25 VOICE DIALOGUE .....................................................611
3.29 HOMEWORK ...............................................................647
3.30 HUMOR .........................................................................648
3.32 AFFIRM, COMPLIMENT, CELEBRATE ................655
3.33 PAYING ATTENTION ................................................661
3.35 ALLOWING TIME AND SPACE ...............................666
3.38 THE PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN ..............697
3.40 JOINING .......................................................................722
3.41 PARADOXICAL INTERVENTION...........................726
3.42 EMPTY CHAIR TECHNIQUE ...................................728
3.43 THE HUNGER ILLUSION..........................................730
3.44 VALIDATE, INTENSIFY, EMPHASIZE...................733
3.45 CHALLENGE EXISTING PATTERNS.....................747
3.46 SOLUTIONS AND SUCCESSES TO DATE..............751
3.47 USING SUGGESTIVE COMMUNICATION............763
3.48 THE POWER OF “YES”..............................................784
3.50 BORROWED GENIUS.................................................839
3.51 IMMEDIACY ................................................................843
3.52 CHALLENGING THE COACHEE ............................845
3.54 PROBLEM ANALYSIS................................................858
3.55 POSITIVITY ................................................................864
3.56 HEAD ON COLLISION ...............................................867
3.57 TRANSFERENCE INTERPRETATION ..................870
3.58 PRIMAL THERAPY ....................................................873
Techniques for Personal
Coaching and Self Coaching
This is the second in a series of three books about
Part 1, “Personal Coaching” is about what Personal
Coaching is and offers a surview of the most popular
models for Personal Coaching (or “Life Coaching”) and
Part 2, “Techniques for Personal Coaching and Self
Coaching” introduces you to the most powerful coaching
techniques in use and describes the most successful
questions and strategies for coaching.
Part 3, “Essential Knowledge for Personal Coaches”, is a
practical standard reference work highlighting the
knowledge and skills that are indispensable for anybody
who is considering life coaching as a career or as a
serious self coaching process,
Dean Amory's Complete Life Coaching and Personal
Coaching Course is your best guide for coaching your
coachees and yourself towards maximizing your life
potential and achieving a happier and more fulfilled life.
Personal Coaching is an invaluable training manual for
anybody who takes life coaching seriously.
3.1 ACTIVE LISTENING
Listening is an art. A lot of people stop talking and in their
mind they're already trying to think of what they're going to
say next. That is not really listening. If you are (pre)occupied
with your own thoughts, then there is no room for the
coachee anymore. Not really.
And even if you are listening and not busy with your own
thoughts on the matter, listening is so much more than just
hearing the words and being able to repeat them. To get the
essence of what's being said -the words behind the words, is
just as important, if not more so. While the coachee is telling
his story, try to also listen for things like a slip of the tongue,
jokes, omissions, recurring themes, metaphors and
contradictions. They can speak volumes.
Apart from the intonations you can pick out the different
emotions in the coachee's voice. Body language and other
signals can strengthen or weaken the story. Contradictions
are called incongruence and the coach can either keep these
in mind or ask about them. Make sure you do this carefully,
so the coachee won't feel caught out.
In active listening, the coach has an open and alert attitude,
he's completely there for the coachee and is peeling his ears,
so to speak.
To listen empathically means the coach shows a lot of
understanding for what the coachee is experiencing and in a
way he manages to convey this warm understanding to the
coachee, who can appreciate it.
Before asking questions, we must learn to listen attentively
and effectively. Active listening includes a number of
techniques: encouraging, paraphrasing, reflecting feelings,
and summarizing. But also other techniques are important.
Body language is important. Excessive eye-contact may be
felt as threatening. Not maintaining enough eye-contact on
the other hand might be interpreted as a lack of interest (e.g.
when listener is repeatedly looking at their watch or
documents on their desk!), or as an indication that the
listener is hiding information or is not sufficiently open or
honest. Body language includes (affirmative) head nodding
and the use of silence, which are powerful tools in any
Gerard Egan describes the correct position for listening as
SOLER S : Sit squarely, face coachee
O: keep an Open posture
L: Lean forward when appropriate
E: maintain regular Eye contact (don’t stare)
R: Relaxed body language
Show coachees that you are interested in the situations,
experiences and feelings that they are communicating and
that you care not only about what they are saying, but also
about how this affects them.
Humming, and short expressions like “Yes”, ”I see" … are
used to confirm coachee that you are listening to him keenly.
These expressions also help them to understand which part
of their message is being appreciated and to elaborate on
that particular topic.
Asking questions is another way of showing your interest
and making coachees feel understood, valued, respected and
In its purest form, life coaching is a technique that uses
powerful questions to facilitate you in finding your own
answers. (Life-coaching for dummies – Jeni Mumford)
Clarifying and reflective questions often are a very good
Examples of clarifying questions:
- Tell me more about …
- Go on …
- I am interested to hear more about …
- What did you do then?
- You say …, why is this so ?
- Is this always the case?
1. Restate what you heard the trainee say
2. Listen for confirmation that what you are saying is correct
3. Encourage trainees to tell you if you are right or wrong
Examples of reflective questions:
- How was this different from …?
- What would it look like if …?
- What would happen if …?
- What do you wish …?
- What did you want him to do instead?
- How would this impact / change … ?
Often enough, it is also very useful to repeat in some way
what they have said.
This forces coachees to concentrate on what you are saying,
thus helping them to take some distance from their own
story and obtain an improved general view of the whole
situation. By repeating coachees’ messages, you also
stimulate their thought process, without introducing new
Different options to repeat a message are available:
1. Parroting : literally echo their exact words. Often, only
the last words are repeated (mirror-questions) in an
invitation to amplify on them. The use of parroting
should however be limited, since hearing your own
words echoed repeatedly soon becomes very annoying.
2. Repeating Content: This technique goes beyond
parroting: The coachee’s exact words are repeated,
inviting them to elaborate on their story or to continue
3. Repeating Conflict: Repeat both sides of a conflict
situation, opposing pros and cons stimulate coachee to
make a considered choice.
4. Paraphrasing or Reflecting Meaning: Repeating
coachee’s message in your own words, that is: reflecting
the facts or ideas, but not the emotions and without
getting emotionally involved, may open new
Often an element of acknowledgement or positive feedback
will be part of the paraphrasing, thus motivating the coachee
to continue sharing.
Simultaneously, paraphrasing is
- either a request for verification of your perceptions
- or a confirmation that you have correctly understood the
Good openings for paraphrasing are:
- So you think, ….
- You don’t believe that …
- You don’t understand why …
- So, what you are saying is …
- Sounds to me like you ….
- The way you see things …
- To you, this means …
- So, you are saying that …
- I guess it is your opinion that …
- If I understand correctly …
- You’ve always thought …, but now you found out that …
Some manuals use the term “reflecting” to indicate reflection
of meaning (thoughts) only and use “paraphrasing” for
referring to reflecting thoughts AND emotions
5. Reflecting - or Repeating Feelings - is very similar to
paraphrasing, but instead of reflecting the meaning, the
coach now reflects the emotions that are the basis of
coachee’s words. Reflecting feelings resorts a much
stronger effect, because coachee will experience that
the coach is not only understanding him, but is also
emphatizing with his feelings.
Reflecting feelings is the basis of emphatic listening and
creates rapport. Naming the feeling that you recognize
in their story, helps coachees to define and explore their
own feelings and become more aware of their
seriousness. Reflecting is very useful also when you feel
coachees are rattling information without feeling
Good introductions for reflecting are:
- You feel doubly hurt, because …
- The situation is worrying you, …
- You are disappointed, …
- You feel it’s a shame, …
- You are feeling sad, …
- You were angry, because …
- You don’t dare to, …
- You are afraid, …
- You must be very fond of him.
- You feel you have failed …
- You are worried that you …
- You had the strong feeling that …
- Yet, I notice some doubt in your voice
- You don’t sound very convinced though
- And yet, you sound sad. Maybe you can tell me what
- I sense you are still angry, troubled, mixed up,
confused … maybe that’s why …
6. Clarifying brings unclear or vague subjects into
sharper focus. It is useful to confirm what was said, to
get supplementary information, to present fresh points of
view or add details, or to shed light on new elements.
- Let me see if I’ve got it all …
- Let me try to state what I think you said …
7. Summative Reflection involves summarizing the
message in order to provide a structured, complete and
comprehensive feedback. Aside from organizing and
integrating the major aspects of the dialogue,
summarizing also establishes a basis for further
discussion and offers a sense of progress in the
It is required to also plan regular summaries and
evaluations during which you
- repeat the essence of what has been said or done
- provide a clear image of the situation
- locate where coachee is with respect to the total
Logical moments for summarizing and evaluating are:
- At the start and end of each session
- At transiting to a new phase
- At any moment that you feel a summary might be
helpful to keep track of the situation or to stimulate
Alternatively, it is a good idea to ask the coachees every
now and then to summarize and evaluate things
themselves. This will help you to take notice of
- Their point of view
- Which elements have stuck
- What is most important to them now
- What they are “forgetting”
- The most important elements in a summary are:
- Accurate summary of core material
- Clarity and structure
- Reflection of content
- Reflection of feelings
- Deeper empathy
Possible opening lines for summarizing:
A. X, let’s see how far you got until now:
- You came to me X weeks ago, because … and because ….
- We determined that …, because ….
- Is there something you would like to add at this point?
B. So, to summarize, you say that …, is that correct?
C. At that moment, you set yourself the target of …. Because
- To this end, we composed an action plan
- Now, the question is when to start with the execution
of this plan.
D. Summarizing your story, you reported that … , but …, and
… - Can you agree with this presentation?
E. This seems a good moment to summarize what we have
done during this session.
- Is there something you want to add?
- How did you experience the conversation?
- By the next session, I would like you
- to consider / go through today’s points again
- to start the actions we agreed upon
- Which would allow us to proceed next time with ….
F. Is there anything you want to add?
I don't understand why my wife is getting worked up, I for
instance never get mad!!
Still I hear a bit of anger in your voice. Your wife might
perceive this as you being angry.
If you think it helps, I'm quite willing to do it, you know?
You don't sound convinced, what might be holding you
I actually wanted to stop coming here as I think I'm doing
much better now.
I'm glad you're feeling a lot better and of course you're
free to stop whenever you want. However I've noticed
there are still some things that seem to trouble you...
I haven't touched a drink in weeks, it's clear I'm not an
Being an alcoholic might be too strong a word, but
something tells me you still do have a drink regularly.
I don't know what's wrong with me or where to start.
We can take our time. You sound very sad, maybe you
could tell me what has happened?
8. Empathy and deeper empathy
In coaching you want to build up a trusting relationship with
your coachee in a short timespan. The coachee has often
heard from people around him things like 'it's nothing to
worry about', 'it will be all right', 'don't get worked up, you
only make it worse' and more well intended things that
unintentionally often made him shut up. With you he is
allowed, or rather he should open up and get rid of this
threshold. So you want to let him know he's at the right
address with his story, his emotions and how he experiences
By showing him empathy, you welcome his inner
experiences and invite him to explore his own feelings.
Empathy is not a technique by itself, it is often part of
paraphrasing or reflecting. You not only express empathy in
the words you use, but also in your modulation, intonation
and by showing the right feelings.
Understanding, empathy and deep empathy are all in line
and in a way connected. Understanding is more a rational
thing and involves mainly intelligence. Empathy involves
feelings, including your own feelings as a human being and
Deep empathy even goes one step further. It goes right into
the inner world of experiencing of the coachee for a short
while. In other words, with deep empathy you can virtually
feel what the coachee must be experiencing. You express the
emotions you feel the coachee has. This can be overdone, not
every coachee expects a strong emotional reaction from his
coach. So use and express deep empathy appropriately and
In these exercises successive understanding, empathy and
deeper empathy are shown.
Mother is connected to all these tubes and can hardly say a
thing anymore. She's also drugged up with medicines.
That must be an awful situation.
I can imagine it must be very emotional to see your
mother lying there so helplessly.
I can tell you're suffering, you would so much like for
her to get well but there's nothing you can do about it
and you feel powerless.
Near my house kids hang out; it's very noisy, they fight
regularly, and there's trash everywhere.
It must be annoying; all that noise, aggression and mess.
It must be threatening; so close to your home, and that
day in day out.
Looks like it really troubles you. You were looking
forward to living in a nice neighbourhood with your
children and now it turns out to be just the opposite.
I got fired last week, out of the blue.
Gosh, that must have been quite a shock.
That's terrible, and you thought you would get that
Of course you feel desperate and betrayed. I would really
like to try and help you to get over it.
“Empathy” is the capacity to recognize (and, to some
extent,share) feelings expressed by others and to
understand their circumstances, point of view and thoughts.
Roadblocks to empathy
There are a number of common ‘roadblocks’ that can
prevent empathy (Jarvis et al., 1995).
- ordering or commanding
- warning or threatening
- arguing or persuading
- ridiculing or labelling
- giving advice or providing solutions
It is also important to avoid:
- using jargon
“Deeper empathy” is the ability to use empathy to help
others understand themselves, their world, personal
situation, thoughts and feelings better and in another
Often the coach will
1. Use questions like “Could it be …”, “Perhaps you might see
…”, “I feel you may think now …” , “you might ask yourself…”,
“Perhaps you feel …”, “it may be that …”, “it seems as if you
are feeling …”
2. Followed by a reflection of information implied by
cochee’s message, but not put into words by them. This
might include naming of themes, patterns, isolated elements
or inconsistencies of thoughts or feelings.
3. and by the suggestion of alternative viewpoints or
Example (E = empathy / E+ = deeper empathy)
Statement coachee: “I cannot bear to see her laying there
E: I can imagine it must be very emotional to see her
laying there so helplessly.
E+: I can tell you are suffering, you would so much like her
to get well but there is nothing you can do about it and you
In a coaching conversation, you will not want to stop at
listening. Towards the end of the conversation, you will
want the coachee to take a next step, start changing things,
commit to action.
- So, where does this leave us?
- What will you do next?
- How will this help you to proceed towards your goal?
- What will be your first step now?
3.2 ASKING QUESTIONS
Asking questions is how we find things out.
An excellent way to do this is “the FRRO technique”.
“FRRO” stands for:
1. FRAME Put aside your own reactions,
opinions and feelings and
concentrate on getting as much
useful and objective information as
possible. Discover the story behind
the story, then pull the elements
that are useful for reaching the
coachee’s goal to foreground
2. REPEAT See the chapter on repeating the
coachee’s message. Show you
understand, show you care.
3. REALITY Checking the coachee’s story,
expectations and beliefs helps to
build realistic expectations.
4. OPEN QUESTIONS Start with open questions and ask
factual questions first, before
proceeding to enquiring about
The best way to start asking, is by asking open questions
Open questions generally do not start with a verb, but start
with a pronoun: who, what, why, when, where, how, how
many, which, …
The advantage of using open questions is that they will
evoke a more detailed response than other types of
questions. They are therefore the obvious questions to ask
when you want to collect information, stimulate the coachee
to talk or stimulate them to put their feelings or thoughts
Exploring questions are very useful during the coaching
For putting the problem in the right context and
Which other feelings play a part?
For scanning and identifying possible goals
For exploring internal and exterior resources
For examining the various paths that might be useful to
achieve the goal
Exploring exact meaning of statement.
E.g.: Coachee says: “I am feeling guilty”
Some possible exploring questions:
- Why are you feeling guilty?
- What does feeling guilty exactly means for you, Ian?
- How do you cope with that situation / feeling?
- How does this make you feel exactly?
- What do you do about these feelings, how do you express
Exploring possible goals
E.g.: Coachee says: “I would like to feel really o.k.”
Some possible exploring questions:
- That’s a great goal, Ian. What would it take to make you
feel really o.k.?
- How would you know that you are feeling really o.k.?
- What could make you feel really o.k.?
- On a scale from 1 – 10, with 10 being really o.k., where
would you locate yourself today?
Discovering internal and exterior resources.
E.g. Coachee says : “I’m a hopeless case”
- You don’t seem to give yourself much courage. Ever
heard of internal resources?
“Ah, my sources have been dry for a long time now”
- Hmm, imagine your sources all of a sudden becoming
active again, what difference would that make?
“I would be nice, be courageous, …”
Probing questions and Clarifying questions
Once we have obtained the general information, we switch
to the more directive types of questions: probing or
clarifying questions, which will yield us the missing data.
They are also used to verify whether we understood
correctly the information we received from the coachee.
Most of these questions will be “Closed questions”.
These questions often start with a verb.
The risks inherent to this kind of questions are:
- they often yield very short questions that do not contain
supplementary information (yes, no …)
- there is always the chance of influencing the coachee’s
answer, especially when our question is of a suggestive
nature (example: “you wouldn’t know by any chance
whether …”, “you wouldn’t want to …” or: “do you think
A, or would you rather say B …”
Generally, people tend to use too many closed questions and
not enough open questions, with the likely outcome of not
receiving all the useful information that they might get
through the use of open questions. Instead of learning about
the coachee’s story, they might end up with a biased story
that is limited in content and influenced by their own
assumptions and prejudices.
A special kind of probing question is the mirror-question in
which all, but mostly only the last part of a sentence is
“I have tried everything!” - “Everything?”
“It was not a nice chat” - “Not a nice chat?”
THE QUESTION TUNNEL
1. Open: e.g. “What does … mean to you?”
2. Probing: e.g. “Which of these objectives are most
important to you and why?”
3. Clarifying: e.g. “So, what you really want is …?”
4. Closed e.g. “What will be your first step?”
Obvious line to take for collecting information, for
stimulating coachee to talk, for helping coachee describe a
situation or put a feeling into words, or for making them
reflect on a specific subject.
Open questions often start with: who – what – where – why
– when – where to – where from - what for – which - how –
how many - ….
They rarely start with a verb.
The use of “why” has to be carefully considered, since this
kind of questions easily lead to coachees feeling that they
have to justify themselves and then often leads to a
In coaching it is recommended to start asking about an
experience or situation and then move to asking about
Phase 1: exploration of situation:
“What exactly happened?”
“What was the discussion about?”
“When did you notice things were going the wrong way?”
Phase 2: exploration of emotions:
“Who was having most problems with the situation?”
“How were you feeling at that point?”
“What did it mean to you that …?”
“What is your biggest fear?”
“What do you think of it now?”
“What are you expecting from him?”
Special probing or clarifying questions that challenge
“What will make you most comfortable with this action /
decision / situation?”
“What stops you from taking action?”
“What would achieving this goal mean to you?”
“What tells you that this is what you will achieve by….”
“What’s great about that option?”
“What would you do next if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
“If you could have …, what would it look (be, feel) like?”
“If it were possible to combine the security of your current
job and the freedom of self-employment, how would you be
Redirect a question back to the learner
Example: “That’s a good question. What do you think
ought to be done in that situation?”
When you don’t know the answer …
“What would you do if you knew the answer?”
“What would the answer be if you did know it?”
Pitfalls when asking questions
1. Being subjective :
- Asking suggestive questions
- Subjective interpretation of the answers received
2. Lack of delineation:
- Asking vague, unclear, ambiguous, confusing questions
- Unclear definition of the subject
- Ramble from one subject to another
- Asking several questions simultaneously
- Lack of “fine tuning” of the conversation
3. Advising, judging, criticizing questions
- Such questions create resistance and tend to block
- Do not try to prove you are right, do not enter into
discussion, do not try to convince: “a man convinced
against his will, remains of the same opinion still!”
4. One way communication :
- Talking too much
- Not listening to coachee’s answers
- Not acknowledging coachee’s answers
- Not responding to coachee’s questions and remarks
- Bringing up your solutions instead of helping coachee to
Difficult questions stimulate independent thinking and boost
the learning or growth process.
Bloom distinguishes 6 classes of questions, with an
increasing degree of difficulty:
1. Knowledge 2. Perception 3. Application
4. Analysis 5. Synthesis 6. Evaluation
1. Knowledge-questions: ask for facts
- Who, what, where, when, which ….
- Asking for definitions, lists, descriptions, factual or
causal links, events, dates, …
2. Perception-questions: require thinking
- Asking for a choice, selection, summary
e.g.: Which elements influence …?
- Asking for an explanation
e.g.: How did this influence you?
- Asking to convey the meaning of contents
e.g.: Can you explain in your words?
- Asking to make a sketch or drawing
e.g.: Can you draw up a floor plan?
- Asking for a prediction or forecast
e.g.: How will A influence B?
- Asking for examples
e.g.: Name a case where this is valid
- Asking for the big scope or great lines of an evolution or
- Asking for points of resemblance and of difference
3. Application-questions: Asking to use knowledge in new
- Asking to develop a plan
- Asking to propose solutions
- Asking to prove, demonstrate, justify, show how, …
- Asking: “How would you … in this specific context or
- Asking to test abstract definitions by practical
- Asking to solve a (mathematical, logic …) problem
4. Asking for an analysis: To force coachee to break up the
subject into its constituent parts and order or compare
the various parts.
- What is the risk of …?
- Describe pattern: which causes led to…?
- Ask for proof for conclusions
- Investigate, explore, …
5. Synthesis-questions: Asking to create a new entity by
joining separate parts
- Asking to design something, e.g. “design the ideal town”
- Asking to create a poem, a stage play …
- Asking to compose a survey, draw up a plan, compile a
- Asking to write an article
- Asking to develop a theme, a point of view, …
- Asking to predict, forecast, extrapolate, …
- Asking to combine knowledge originated from different
6. Evaluation-questions: Asking for a substantiated point of
view and conclusions
- Asking for substantiated conclusions
- Asking for detailed arguments
- Asking to indicate value: “who is the best …?”
- Asking for a detailed critic: “What are the weak points?”
- Asking to choose and justify the choice made
- Asking for a substantiated judgment or verdict.
Tips for asking questions
Replace often pointless “why” questions about the past by
“how” questions about the future. “Why” questions my leave
the impression that one is asked to justify his actions and
thus will easier lead to a defensive position.
Instead of asking :”Why did you take this approach?”, ask:
“How can we move on from here?”
Avoid using “why”, use “how”: If you need to know why
something happened, avoid the “you” approach
Instead of: “Why have you done this?”, ask: “How did this
Instead of asking “What did you think about …?”, ask : “How
do you feel about …?”
or ask: “Did / Do you like …?”
Pay attention to what is scrambled, suppressed or
transformed: Continue to ask questions until you feel you
dispose of all the necessary information.
Be alert for deletions (omission of referential index,
nominalizations, omission of subject, comparative deletions,
…), subjective remarks, assumptions, general truths,
distortions, wordings which contain modal verbs (must,
mustn’t, can, can’t, shouldn’t, …), generalizations (all, every,
never, always, almost never, …)
- I cannot ask her now : ask : why not, what is stopping
- I have enough of this : what exactly is bothering you?
Challenge ineffective convictions.
If you feel that the coachee believes:
- that he is worthless unless he’s outstandingly competent
- that he is special or doomed: either good or bad
- that he must prove himself, must have everything he
- that he must be immortal; must be loved, must have
everything he wants
- that he must be immortal, must be loved and cared for
- that he must be made happy by others, must be treated in
a special way
- Is their any evidence for this belief?
- What is the worst that can happen if he gives up his belief?
- What is the best that can happen if he gives up his belief?
- Why should this be so?
If you really do not know what to answer, ask : “Why do you
say that?” – “Why do you want to know?”
Whatever you ask, add “because”:
Explaining why you want something increases compliance
with up to 50% … even if you add an “empty reason”.
Example: “May I use the Xerox, because I have to make some
Questions for coaching
The purpose of these questions is to bring forth answers
from your (or your friend's, if you are coaching a friend) own
store of values, experiences and abilities. They will also help
you to turn your situation on its head and give you a new
The Miracle question
Suppose our meeting is over, you go home, do whatever you
planned to do for the rest of the day. And then, some time in
the evening, you get tired and go to sleep. And in the middle
of the night, when you are fast asleep, a miracle happens and
all the problems that brought you here today are solved just
like that. But since the miracle happened over night nobody
is telling you that the miracle happened. When you wake up
the next morning, how are you going to start discovering
that the miracle happened? ... Ask, what else are you going to
notice? What else?
In a specific situation, the practitioner may ask,
If you woke up tomorrow, and a miracle happened so that
you no longer easily lost your temper, what would you see
differently? What would the first signs be that the miracle
A child might respond by saying: I would not get upset
when somebody calls me names.
The coach wants the coachee to develop positive goals, or
what they will do, rather than what they will not do--to
better ensure success. So, the coach may ask the coachee,
What will you be doing instead when someone calls you
A couple of supplementary questions you can ask:
1. Who else would notice that this miracle has
happened? What would tell them?
This question encourages you to step outside of yourself and
think about what would be different in your observable
behaviour if the problem were solved. Once you're aware of
this, it's a very short step to beginning to act differently.
2. Does anyone else have to change in order for this
miracle to happen?
Out of dozens of coachees I've asked this question, everyone
has said 'no'. Of course, having just described your answer to
the miracle question makes it a lot easier to realise that you
are able to make the changes you need in your life.
BasicBasic QuestionsQuestions forfor CoachingCoaching
How are you doing right now … on a scale of 1 to 10?
Describe what a ten-point-level would look like.
If you were to go up by two points on the scale – how
would things be different?
Which obstacles keep you from getting there today?
If you were to wake up one morning and those obstacles
were no longer there, what would you think and do?
What is it that keeps your situation from being worse?
If you had already achieved what you wanted, what
would it be like?
When do you want that to happen?
Is this really your own goal or is it someone else's?
What is it you will gain if you reach your goal?
What will you gain by not reaching your goal?
How would it feel to succeed?
How would it feel if you were not to reach your goal?
Would it even be worth trying?
Earlier in your life, have you been in a situation similar to
the one you are in now? How did you solve it that time?
If somebody else with your experience had been in your
shoes, what would you have told him or her?
If some person is involved – who is the most negative?
For what reason?
What other circumstances effect you with regard to this
matter? If necessary, would you be willing to have a look
at these circumstances?
How determined are you to try to reach your goal?
What would be a step in the right direction?
What other possibilities do you have?
What further options are open to you?
What sort of things are there that could be done if you
did not have to do them?
What more can be done?
What can you do to get yourself beyond these obstacles?
What do you first need to do/find out in order to move
Who or what can help you to get what you want?
If you had an unlimited amount of time and money, what
would you do?
If somebody else had the same problems or issues that
you have, what kind of advice would you give him/her?
If your best friend were in your situation, what kind of
advice would you give him/her?
If your child found himself in the same situation, then
what would you advise?
If someone were sitting up on the moon and looking
down on your situation, what do you think he or she
would say you should do?
What would a total novice in the field do in the same
What would someone with a strong sense of self do?
What would a man or woman of enormous wisdom
What is it that really works? Can you somehow reinforce
What has worked before? Can you try it again?
What does your gut-feeling tell you? What does your
intuition tell you?
Answer within five seconds – what would you do if you
knew how you should behave?
Confronting your fears
What are you most afraid of?
What are you least afraid of?
What is the best thing that can happen if you make a
move, even if you are scared?
What is the worst that can happen?
If you were completely without fear, what would you do?
When others are frightened, what do you tell them?
Has it ever happened that you worried about something,
even after it turned out be alright in the end? Can you
draw any parallels to your current situation?
What do you expect if you do nothing – how will you look
at that decision when you are eighty years old?
If you let your fears control you, does it help?
1010 PersonalPersonal GrowthGrowth QuestionsQuestions toto AskAsk YourselfYourself
Question # 10: How am I spending my time?
We all have 24 hours each day. We cannot manage ‘time’, yet
we can choose how we manage ourselves with the time we
have. Time is your most valuable resource. You only have a
What is your present relationship with time? Does it give
you the satisfaction and fulfillment you seek? Do you feel
there are never enough hours in the day to achieve what you
want? Do you sometimes feel that others are managing your
How you choose to spend your time is how you spend your
The way you spend your time tells you much about your
priorities and what you value in life.
Do you know what your core values and priorities are?
Have you decided what the top ten things are that you want
to spend your time on this year?
If you want to make good use of your time, you've got to
know what's most important and then give it all you've got.
Take some time to reflect on the larger areas in your life,
such as your work/career, health, relationships, finances,
personal growth, fun and recreation.
How can you manage yourself more effectively allowing you
to spend more time in those areas that are most important in
your life? What choices will you make? What will you say
'no' to in order to gain more balance and experience more
fulfillment in life?
If you choose to live a more balanced life, you must redefine
your relationship with time, to shift the emphasis from
quantity to quality, from frustration to fulfillment, from lack
to abundance, from pressure to peace.
Managing your time is a choice!
Question #9: What Would I Do If I Knew I Couldn’t Fail?
What if failure was not an option? The fear of failure holds us
back more than anything else in all our pursuits in life. Many
people don’t even set goals because they are often so afraid
of failing that they do not even try.
How many opportunities have you missed in the past
because you lacked the courage to take a chance, to play full
out, all because you were afraid you might fail? How much
more pain and lost opportunities are you willing to endure
by continuing to allow fear and procrastination to rule your
Failure is a concept that only exists in your ego’s mind. If
your ego would have a favorite slogan, it would probably be
“Playing It Safe.” Your ego operates in the emotional comfort
zone of your mind and will do anything in its power to keep
you there. It is that little voice in the back of your head
giving you all the reasons why you shouldn’t do this or try
The only way to create results in your life is by taking action.
Realize that, succeed or fail, you will produce results from
which you will learn.
Don’t be afraid of failure; be afraid of not taking action!
Question #8: Who Am I becoming?
How satisfied are you with the person you are becoming?
What kind of person do you see yourself becoming ? Do you
see someone who is becoming more stressed out or tired
with an unsatisfying job or an unbalanced work/home life,
or do you see someone who is enjoying a happy and fulfilling
lifestyle? How do you feel about your future self?
If you want to have more and experience more in life, you
have to become more.
What are some of the personal qualities you would like to
further develop this year?
Perhaps you would like to become more skillful or
competent. More honest, sincere, genuine or congruent.
More compassionate, accepting, forgiving or grateful. More
creative or expressive. More courageous. More generous,
loving or happy. More responsible.
No matter how you feel about yourself right now, you can
make a decision to become more of who you really are. The
power to choose lies within your mind and how you think
about yourself. You will become what you think about, most
of the time.
Your thinking process determines how you feel, the choices
you make and the results you create.
If you seek to attract new experiences in your life or you
want to make certain changes, you need to begin the process
in your mind. Focus on continuous personal development;
with books, CD’s, seminars, personal coaching, studying,
listening, practicing, and nourishing your mind.
Become the mental architect of your own personal
Change your mind and change your life!
Question #7: What Am I Tolerating?
What are some of the things you have been putting up with
in your life? What have you been tolerating at work, at home
or in your social environment in the past year? What are the
things you wish would resolve themselves somehow?
Sometimes tolerations show up as minor inconveniences
such as a messy desk, a squeaking door or a friend who
always shows up late for appointments. Other tolerations
are more serious, such as mental or physical abuse or a
controlling or disrespectful boss.
Sometimes it is easier to ignore your 'tolerations' rather
than to take the necessary action to clean them up. Allowing
'tolerations' to hang around in your life will drain your
energy, try your patience and show up under the form of
stress and anxiety. They can chip away at your self-esteem,
confidence and enthusiasm.
Here are a few life coaching tips to help with the process:
Make a list of 10 things that you are putting up with. Ask
yourself what each is costing you in terms of energy,
confidence and enthusiasm?
Resolve to take action. The decision to act on 'tolerations'
is very liberating and will improve the quality of your life.
Set target dates and make time in your schedule to
overcome your 'tolerations'.
Seek the support from friends, family or a personal coach
to keep you focused and stay on track.
Living a life you want not only means choosing the things
you want, but also eliminating the things that are hanging
around in your life that you no longer want.
Now is the perfect time to do some personal housecleaning,
and remove some of the clutter around your house, at work
or in your relationships.
When you resolve to stop putting up, you will find a renewed
sense of freedom and balance in your life.
Question # 6: Where Do I Focus My Attention?
Your life becomes what you focus on. Your thought patterns
create the texture of your everyday life. You are always
focusing on something. The experiences you create in this
very moment, and the next, are based on where your focus
What you see depends on what you look for. What you hear
depends on what you listen for and what you feel depends
on the experiences you seek. Your expectations, based on
what you focus on, blossom into self-fulfilling prophecies.
The results you create are a result of your focus. If you're not
getting the results you are looking for, it is time to re-
examine what you focus on. If you keep focusing on the same
things and keep doing what you’ve always done, sure
enough, you’ll keep getting the same results.
Your mind cannot tell the difference between something you
think about or focus on that you do want, and the stuff you
think about that you don’t want. Your mind is a very
effective goal seeking mechanism and seeks to create
precisely what you focus on. The key is to direct your focus
on the goals and experiences that you do want in your life.
Think of your focus as a sticky boomerang. What you focus
on comes back to you, with more strength that it has
gathered along the way. If you send out anger, fear,
negativity or jealousy, you will invite the same thoughts
What you focus on expands.
Focus on what is going well in your life right now and what
is good for you moving forward. Focus on your innate talents
and capabilities. Focus on what you believe is possible and
you will see opportunities rather than constraints.
Question #5: How Am I Using My Talents?
When you talk with people who have achieved a high level of
success in their lives, you’ll find that they have found ways to
incorporate their passions and talents into their daily
activities. They also experience more fulfillment and balance
because they intentionally played to their talents and
strengths by developing the know-how and experience
through continued focus and practice.
Your talents influence how you think and the way you
respond to the situations in your life. Once you fully
understand and acknowledge your natural abilities, you will
develop a higher self awareness, which will lead to increased
self confidence, a healthier self esteem, more success and
Talents by themselves are not that special, it is what you
decide to do with them that make them special. All too often
we deny our own talents, because to acknowledge them
would mean we have to use them.
Why is it sometimes difficult to identify our own talents?
First, it’s a question we don’t really ask ourselves. Second,
our talents feel so natural to us that we tend to take them for
granted. Third, we live in a culture where we tend to focus
on improving our weaknesses rather than developing our
talents into strengths.
Do you know what your talents are? How do you go about
discovering some of your talents or natural abilities?
Answer the following questions and start to identify some of
the common themes within your answers.
What are some activities or special interests you enjoyed
growing up? What did you enjoy most about those
moments and why?
What are some of the skills or abilities you developed
over the years? What skills were easy for you to learn or
What are some of your favorite activities or projects that
give you the most satisfaction? At home? At work? What
are some activities that whenever you’re doing them,
everything just flows because it just feels right. It comes
natural to you and you tend to lose track of time. What
are some activities that you genuinely look forward to
What would you enjoy doing even when you’re not
getting paid for it?
What do other people regularly ask you to do?
What are some of the qualities that other people think
Once you get a better understanding of your dominant
innate talents and abilities, start looking for ways to
incorporate them into your daily life. None of us have been
dealt the perfect hand, but it is your responsibility and
greatest joy to become the best you can with the cards you
have been dealt.
Question #4: Who Do I spend My Time With?
The people you spend most of your time with have a strong
influence on you. When you are surrounded by negative or
angry people, you will absorb some of their negativity or
When you spend time with people who inspire you, support
you and believe in you, their positive energy will boost your
motivation, self-confidence and inner strength. Do not
underestimate the power of influence of the people you
surround yourself with.
Make a mental note of the people in your personal and
professional life with whom you most often associate and
think of how they are influencing you, both positively and
Perhaps you've heard the story of the little bird. He had his
wing over his eye and he was crying. The owl said to the
bird, You are crying. Yes, said the little bird, and he
pulled his wing away from his eye. Oh, I see, said the owl.
You're crying because the big bird pecked out your eye.
And the little bird said, No, I'm not crying because the big
bird pecked out my eye. I'm crying because I let him.
I believe that the quality of your life is greatly influenced by
the quality of your associations and relationships. Be
cautious of the people you allow yourself to associate with in
your personal life and business.
Choose to surround yourself with people who will move you
forward on your journey and let go of the negative
influences that impede your progress.
Question # 3: How Do I Honor My Core Values?
Your core values express the essence of who you are.
Although you may share similar values with others, you have
a unique set of values. Many of the important decisions that
you make, and the actions you take, are based on the values
that you hold. Your values, together with the beliefs that
support them, are an energetic driving force and provide
meaning and direction in your life.
If you commit time and energy to something that violates or
neglects one of your core values, you will most likely feel
resentful and frustrated.
If your values are not respected at your job or in your
relationships, you will feel that something is missing.
While it is enormously helpful to know your core values, it is
not always easy to identify them.
Often these things are so much a part of who you are, that
they become invisible to you.
Take a moment and write down the unique qualities that
What are the qualities that are at the core of who you are?
Create a list for yourself by thinking about the ideas and
questions below. Don’t worry about getting it right and
capturing all of your values. Your list will be a work in
progress. Also, your values don’t have to be a single word;
they could be a string of words or sentences or themes. Find
the words that work best for you.
Think about the following questions:
What is important to you?
What do you really care about?
What do you really want in your life?
When do you feel happiest?
Select a time from your life when you felt particular
fulfilled. There may have been challenges,but you were
still on a roll. It may have been a few minutes, or hours or
days. What was important about that experience? What
values were you honoring?
What do you react negatively to? What makes you angry
What value is being violated? What kinds of situations
cause you to feel incongruent? When are you not being
true to yourself?
For each of us, there are usually values that are so much a
part of us that we don’t even think to put them on a list.
These are often our most dearly held values. A teacher
might fail to include learning; an artist might forget to
write down creativity, a business owner might overlook
Question # 2: What Do I want?
The quality of your life's experiences amounts to the sum of
all the decisions you have ever made.
The power to make decisions is what gives you freedom. The
more freedom you have, the more options you can entertain.
The more options you have available, the more
opportunities you can create for yourself and others.
Have you ever been told what to believe? Have you ever had
someone tell you what you should do, how you should feel or
behave? Why would you have someone else decide for you in
your life? What is the cost of living that way? Life is short,
and time is your most valuable resource. Letting anyone else
decide for you is a waste of time! No one else knows you as
well as you do. You are the expert of your own life.
Think of yourself as the majority shareholder in your life.
What are some of the strategic decisions that will help you
grow and flourish in the New Year? What will you vote yes
for in your life? What will you vote no for? Recognizing
that you have a choice does not mean that there will never
be any uncomfortable consequences. But not making a
decision is also a decision which could have consequences
that are just as negative.
Peter Drucker once said that whenever you see a successful
business, someone once made a courageous decision! In
what department of your life's organization - relationships,
money, health, fun, recreation, personal growth - do you
currently experience the most challenge? Where do you feel
Whatever you believe is missing, it is yours, waiting to be
claimed. The first step is to make a conscious decision about
the things you would like to have more of and the things you
will need to let go off.
Some people get trapped in inaction. They have a hard time
saying yes, because that would mean that they have to close
off other possibilities. In economics, this is referred to as the
'opportunity cost'. The same principle is true in life. Saying
yes to one thing often means saying no to many other
Don't just dwell in possibility. Dwell in reality! Choose,
decide and take action.
Question #1: How Am I Committed?
Why is it that we tell ourselves we want certain things but
we don’t take action? We might have the best of intentions to
make certain changes in our lives, yet we do not follow
through on our resolutions?
Does that mean we are lazy or undisciplined?
Are we afraid of failure? Are we holding on to limiting beliefs
We get frustrated when we think and say we are committed
to wanting something for ourselves, but no action follows
that voice of commitment.
When you fully commit to something, action always follows
thought. There is no question, no debate, no doubt or
struggle. You don’t wonder whether or not you will take
action or not. Commitment goes beyond making a choice. I
have never met a mother who had to think about and decide
whether or not to feed her baby. People gain a mysterious
strength and resolve when they make a commitment.
Commitment is a unique personal experience. As a personal
coach I can offer you many possible commitment strategies,
yet the best personal style of commitment comes from a
deep emotional awareness within yourself. Often our
commitments are invisible to us and we don’t think about
them as commitments, it is what we do naturally. And that’s
the whole point.
Recall a time in your life when you were committed to
something. You were so deeply committed that there was no
doubt in your mind, and taking action was almost automatic
and effortless. Take some time to answer the following
questions to discover the underlying structure of your own
personal commitment strategy.
When and where were you committed? Was it a
commitment you made to yourself or others? Were there
any external influences?
What were some of the actions you took?
How did you go about taking action? What was your
strategy for taking action? Did you write down your goal
or commitment? Did you visualize your achievements? Did
you call a friend or work with a personal life coach? What
skills or capabilities did you use?
What were some of the emotional reasons why you were
committed? Reflect on the values and beliefs that
motivated you to take action and follow through on your
How did you benefit from taking action? What was the
cost of not taking action at all?
How did you think and feel about yourself as a person?
Maybe you felt like a successful individual or a
How did your commitment impact others?
Understanding and modeling your personal commitment
strategy will help you create resolve to follow through and
achieve your goals.
3.3 HERON’S CATEGORIES OF
John Heron (1986) defines six major styles of intervention
that we can use to increase the effectiveness of our
communication skills in coaching relationships.
In the list below, the interventions are described according
to their intention rather than content. Pay attention to
which of these styles of intervention you use most and least
in your own communication. Notice whether you use some
more than others.
1 Prescriptive: A prescriptive intervention seeks to direct
the behaviour of the patient/colleague, usually behaviour
that is outside of the coach / coachee relationship.
For example – ”I would like you to discuss this issue with
your senior colleagues”
2 Informative: An informative intervention seeks to
impart knowledge, information and meaning to the other
For example – “Grants are often made available
for this type of work”
3 Confronting: A confronting intervention seeks to raise
the awareness of the coachee about some limiting
attitude or behaviour of which he/she is relatively
For example – “I notice this is the third time we have
talked about this – and you have still not been able to act
– I wonder what is going on?”
4 Cathartic: A cathartic intervention seeks to enable the
other person to discharge and express painful emotion,
usually grief, anger or fear (Heron believed that
unexpressed emotion could block development and
For example – “I notice that whenever you speak about
your research you look rather anxious”.
5 Catalytic: A catalytic intervention seeks to elicit self
discovery, self directed learning, and problem solving
For example – “Tell me about a previous time when you
had to work with a colleague who you found particularly
challenging … How did you deal with that?”
6 Supportive: A supportive intervention seeks to affirm
the worth and value of the other person, and their
qualities, attitudes and actions
For example – “It sounds like you handled that in a very
mature and confident way”.
In developing effective coaching relationships, it is usual for
the coach to rely more on facilitative interventions rather
than on authoritative ones – to enable the coachee to
develop their own solutions and autonomy.
(Developed from John Heron ‘Helping the Coachee’ (1990) London
Responsiveness is defined as: “Readily reacting to
suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts”
Being responsive means acting quickly, reacting to requests,
suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts. It means being
able to adjust quickly to a change in situation, environment,
or direction. Though not a perfect antonym, I would say that
the antithesis of responsiveness is procrastination, which is
the downfall of many businesses, careers, and lives. (Jeff
Responsive life coaches will gradually develop an approach
and an orientation that is most relevant and useful to both
them and their coachees. (www.associationforcoaching.com)
Responsive questions enable the coach to gather more
information and to help the coachee discover their gifts and
talents - and finds ways to bring those out. A life coach
needs to be intuitive and responsive when guiding a coachee
to see the value in their own unique gifts. (Patti Stafford)
Some examples of responsive questions are:
1. If it were possible to satisfy and alleviate your specific
concerns, would you be interested in discussing this in
2. (I can certainly appreciate how you feel.) May I ask why
you feel that way?
3. What are the top three benefits you would want to
realize if you were to …?
4. What do you need to see in order to feel confident that
you've made the best decision?
Feedback is the term used for giving people information
about their performance.
Sometimes as a coach you have information or a suggested
course of action that you believe can help the coachee—you
have a suggestion or an opinion. The motivation of
suggestion and feedback is to reinforce or change a pattern
of behavior, to assist the coachee in solving a problem, or to
support a coachee’s development.
We often offer our suggestions and feedback early in the
conversation, before we have fully explored a situation with
a coachee. The guidelines that follow assume that you have
been in enough questioning to significantly understand the
situation being presented to you.
Advocacy or suggestion is used only after sufficient
● To truly achieve peak performance, people must see the
relationship between their behaviors, thoughts, feelings,
underlying beliefs, and the result of ALL of these (intended
or unintended) in their lives.
● The spirit of coaching is to offer and let go.
● For optimal success, the coach maintains an open and
curious state about the coachee’s situation. If for some
reason, this is not possible (ex: coach is highly invested in
one alternative or action), another coach may be helpful.
● Coaching assumes that each of us knows our own needs,
situation, and goals best.
Issues with Feedback
Although supervisors may know about feedback, they do not
always have skills to give effective feedback. It takes
practice as well as knowledge. Staff and volunteers often are
not receptive when feedback is offered. They may get
defensive, trying to justify what they did rather than
listening and considering the help they are receiving. Both
supervisors and their staff or volunteers should prepare for
feedback sessions, and know some ground rules. Feedback
should be a regular occurrence, a part of the overall strategy
to improve performance. As opportunities arise for the
supervisor to observe, read, or discuss work, positive and
corrective feedback should be a part of the interaction.
Guidelines for Giving Feedback
Giving feedback is a delicate communication, because there
is always the risk of people interpreting feedback as a
personal critic directed against whom and how they are,
instead of taking it as useful information on something they
The best way to give feedback is to avoid “you-statements”
and use “I-statements” instead:
1. Give a specific description of the concrete behavior
2. Tell how it made you feel
3. Explain why (because…)
4. Describe the desired consequence
1. Be specific and support general statements with
The receiver of feedback for both positive and negative
behavior will be better able to act on statements that are
precise and concise. Example: “During this month you have
improved a lot.” This may be satisfying for both parties but
it’s not as effective as saying, “Your reports were on time and
2. Describe the facts and do not judge.
Describing the facts helps the receiver to understand the
meaning and the importance of the feedback. It tends to
focus the discussion on behavior and not on personal
characteristics. Example: “Did you prepare for your meeting
with the grantee? For me it looked like you did not. It was
not organized.” This type of statement can bring anger,
return accusations, or passive–aggressive behavior in the
listener. A better sequence of statements would be: “I got
confused in your presentation to the grantee. I was not clear
what the presentation was meant to accomplish. A
statement about that at the beginning would have helped us
all focus on the information you presented.”
3. Be direct, clear, and to the point.
In many cultures, it is considered more polite and educated
to not be direct. But in the case of feedback, since the
objective is to communicate clearly and specifically, and not
leave someone guessing, we encourage people to be direct
but in polite way.
4. Direct feedback toward controllable behavior.
Inquire before critiquing. If an employee is continually late
to work, perhaps s/he has a childcare situation that causes
this. Discussing the cause and the alternatives to meet
everyone’s expectations and needs would be a more
constructive approach than simply criticizing the employee’s
behavior. Avoid criticizing a participant’s physical
characteristics. To say, “You are too short to be seen in the
back of the room,” without giving or exploring with him/her
some suggestions (about room arrangement, for example), is
not very helpful.
5. Feedback should be solicited, rather than imposed.
If a collaborative work environment is present with
employees or volunteers, feedback should be expected and
welcomed. It should include positive feedback on good
performance to reinforce what is being done correctly or
better. Feedback that helps improve performance is critical
to the learning environment and be desired by employees
6. Consider the timing of feedback.
Do not wait too long to discuss observations with staff or
volunteers. Given in useable amounts and in a timely
manner, it is much more effective than allowing things to
build up. A person may even feel you that you were holding
things over him/her, if you withhold information about
behavior that you feel needs to be changed.
7. Make sure feedback takes into account the needs of
both the receiver and the giver.
Feedback can be destructive when it serves only one’s own
needs and fails to consider the needs of the person on the
receiving end. If an employee or volunteer is struggling, and
there are many points that could be discussed, select some
positive points and one or two behaviors to work on first.
Then, as performance improves, give feedback on other
areas to improve.
8. Plan your feedback.
Plan what to say, and in what order. Think before you
talk. As you give feedback on a regular basis it will become
easier to balance your comments, and provide feedback that
can be acted upon.
9. Own your feedback.
Use “I” statements, so that the receiver understands that it is
your opinion. Example: “Your posture of standing with your
hands on your hips was very authoritarian as you talked
with the group” is different than saying, “I found your hands
on your hips distracting. That posture is sometimes seen as
aggressive and authoritarian. Were you aware you were
standing like that? What were you thinking as you stood
Guidelines for Receiving Feedback
1. Solicit feedback in clear and specific areas.
It’s always easier to give feedback if one is asked. It’s even
easier when a specific question is asked. Example: “I often
find it difficult to conclude a presentation. Will you pay
particular attention to the conclusion today?”
2. Ask for clarification and make a point to understand
Listen carefully and ask for clarification, if the feedback is
not clear. Example: “Are you saying that if I had given an
introduction stating what I was going to talk about, that the
rest of the presentation was clear?”
3. Help the giver use the criteria for giving useful
Example: If the feedback is too general, ask: “Could you give
me specific examples of what you mean?”
4. Avoid making it more difficult for the giver of the
feedback than it already is.
Strive to avoid being defensive, angry or argumentative.
5. Don’t ask for explanations.
Clarification and examples are different than asking why
someone did not like something. Requesting explanations
beyond the facts can seem defensive and often end up in an
argument. As a result the giver backs off and is discouraged
from giving feedback in the future. However, the giver is not
discouraged from seeing negative behavior or assessing your
performance; the person simply becomes unwilling to
provide the feedback. Focus on understanding the behavior
and its impact.
6. Assume the sender wants to help.
Related to the point above, assume that the person giving the
feedback is helping you improve. It should not be seen as a
way to be more powerful than you or to make you feel bad.
Everyone can improve; it is a benefit to have someone reflect
how your behavior appears to him/her.
7. Be appreciative and thank the observer.
Express your gratitude in a sincere way, such as “Thanks. I
am sure I will be clearer if I pay attention to your points.”
8. Share your improvement plan.
Tell the giver what you intend to do in the future. Example:
“I think I will try your idea of putting talking points on the
flip chart in pencil. That should help me get rid of the notes
that are distracting to me.”
Remember that feedback is based on one person’s
perception of another person’s behavior, not universal
truth. You are receiving one person’s perceptions. Having
this in mind should make you less defensive. If you do not
agree with the feedback, you might check out the
perceptions with others. For example, you might ask
someone else to watch you for the specific behaviors you
received feedback on.
Everyone sees things differently — knowledge often lies in
the eye of the beholder. To reframe means to change the
conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint in relation
to which a situation is experienced and to place it in another
frame which fits the ”facts” of the same concrete situation
equally well or even better, and thereby changes its entire
meaning. (Watzlawick et al.)
The reframing matrix enables different perspectives to be
generated and used in coaching and management processes.
It expands the number of options for solving a problem.
“Wise people,” wrote M. Scott Peck, “learn not to dread but
actually to welcome problems.” You know why that’s wise?
Because you’re going to get problems. If you welcome them
and embrace the challenge, you will be better at solving
them. And you will be less upset or depressed by problems
when they come along (which they will).
We can learn to welcome problems by getting in the habit of
framing problems as opportunities in disguise. We can
learn to welcome problems by deliberately trying to see
what’s good about the problem — by deciding right up front,
“This is good,” and then working to make it so.
Perspective is a mental view, an ingrained way of perceiving
the world. Different people have different experiences and
see in different ways: understanding how they do expands
the range of solutions that one might devise to address a
question or problem.
The reframing matrix is a simple technique that helps
examine problems from distinct viewpoints. In other words,
individuals or groups place themselves in the mindsets of
different people and imagine what solutions the latter might
come up with. The reframing matrix was devised by Michael
EXAMPLES OF REFRAMING
I am in a tunnel and I
can’t see a way out.
I am too anxious to
I know I will never be
When he/she looks at
me like that he/she
Beggars are criminals
and might kill me.
He/she is out at night
and that means that
he/she does not love
me any more.
He/she is so boring,
stays in all the time and
does not have a mind of
Every tunnel has an
entrance and exit.
You need to be anxious
enough to concentrate.
Being confident starts
with having insights
about our limits.
People cover up their
hurt by putting a scowl
on their faces.
No one deliberately
wants to fall on hard
Private time away can
help you to appreciate
each other much more.
Thoughtful people put
others first and are a
great port in a storm —
a great source of
The reframing matrix lays a question (or problem) in the middle of a
four-box grid. It is then examined from four typical business
• Program Perspective: Are there issues with the program (or product
or service) we are delivering?
• Planning Perspective: Is the business (or communications plan)
• Potential Perspective: Is the program replicable? Can it be scaled up?
• People Perspective: What do the people involved think?
The figure below offers one example of the so-called Four Ps Approach,
with illustrative questions aimed at a new program that is not raising
Then again, the four-box grid can be used to consider a question (or
problem) from the perspectives of different groups of stakeholders, e.g.,
staff, coachees, suppliers, and partners, or specialists, e.g., engineers,
lawyers, economists, or information technology specialists. The table
below shows how one might figure out the potential perspectives of
internal and external stakeholders in the context of a development
Even so, the problématique of independent evaluation is still more
complex.2 At the request of shareholders tasked with reporting to
political leadership, taxpayers, and citizens, feedback from evaluation
studies has often tended to support accountability (and hence provide
for control), not serve as an important foundation block of a learning
organization. Some now argue for a reinterpretation of the notion of
accountability. Others cite lack of utility; the perverse, unintended
consequences of evaluation for accountability, such as diversion of
resources; emphasis on justification rather than improvement;
distortion of program activities; incentive to lie, cheat, and distort; and
misplaced accent on control.3 Table 3 suggests that the two basic
objectives of evaluations—accountability and learning—are generally
This is not to say that evaluation units face an either-or situation. Both
accountability and learning are important goals for evaluation
feedback. One challenge is to make accountability accountable. In
essence, evaluation units are placing increased emphasis on results
orientation while maintaining traditional checks on use of inputs and
compliance with procedures. Lack of clarity on why evaluations for
accountability are carried out, and what purpose they are expected to
serve, contributes to their frequent lack of utility.
Moreover, if evaluations for accountability add only limited value,
resources devoted to documenting accountability can have a negative
effect, perversely enough. However, evaluation for learning is the area
where observers find the greatest need today and tomorrow, and
evaluation units should be retooled to meet it. Table 5 suggests how
work programs for evaluation might be reinterpreted to emphasize
Evaluation capacity development promises much to the learning
organization, and should be an activity in which centralized evaluation
units have a comparative advantage. Capacity is the ability of people,
organizations, and society as a whole to manage their affairs
successfully; and capacity to undertake effective monitoring and
evaluation is a determining factor of aid effectiveness. Evaluation
capacity development is the process of reinforcing or establishing the
skills, resources, structures, and commitment to conduct and use
monitoring and evaluation over time. Many key decisions must be made
when starting to develop evaluation capacity internally in a strategic
way.4 Among the most important are:
Architecture. Locating and structuring evaluation functions and
Strengthening evaluation demand. Ensuring that there is an
effective and well-managed demand for evaluations.
Strengthening evaluation supply. Making certain that the skills and
competencies are in place with appropriate organizational support.
Institutionalizing evaluations. Building evaluation into policy-
Why development agencies should want to develop in-house, self-
evaluation capacity is patently clear.
Stronger evaluation capacity will help them
Develop as a learning organization.
Take ownership of their visions for poverty reduction, if the
evaluation vision is aligned with that.
Profit more effectively from formal evaluations.
Make self-evaluations an important part of their activities.
Focus quality improvement efforts.
Increase the benefits and decrease the costs associated with their
Augment their ability to change programming midstream and
adapt in a dynamic, unpredictable environment.
Build evaluation equity, if they are then better able to conduct
more of their own self-evaluation, instead of hiring them out.
Shorten the learning cycle.
Figure 2 poses key questions concerning how an organization may
learn from evaluation, combining the two elements of learning by
involvement and learning by communication. It provides the context
within which to visualize continuing efforts to increase value added
from independent evaluation, and underscores the role in internal
evaluation capacity development. It also makes a strong case for more
research into how development agencies learn how to learn
The Reframing Matrix
A Reframing Matrix is a simple technique that helps you to look at
problems from a number of different viewpoints. It expands the range
of creative solutions that you can generate.
The approach relies on the fact that different people with different
experience approach problems in different ways. What this technique
helps you to do is to put yourself into the minds of different people and
imagine the solutions they would come up with.
We do this by putting the question to be asked in the middle of a grid.
We use boxes around the grid for the different perspectives. This is just
an easy way of laying the problem out - if it does not suit you, change it.
We will look at two different approaches to the reframing matrix. You
could, however, use this approach in many different ways.
The 4 Ps Approach
This relies on looking at a problem from different perspectives within a
business. The 4 Ps approach looks at problems from the following
1. Product perspective: is there something wrong with the product?
2. Planning perspective: are our business or marketing plans at fault?
3. Potential perspective: if we were to seriously increase our targets,
how would we achieve these increases?
4. People perspective: why do people choose one product over another?
The 'Professions Approach'
Another approach to using a reframing matrix is to look at the problem
from the viewpoints of different specialists. The way, for example, that
a doctor looks at a problem would be different from the approach a civil
engineer would use. This would be different from a sales manager's
Here is an example of both approaches:
Asian Development Bank- Metro Manila, Philippines -
email@example.com - www.adb.org/knowledgesolutions
Olivier Serrat, Head of the Knowledge Management Center, Asian
Development Bank (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3.7 REALITY CHECK
When people come for personal life coaching, they usually feel stuck.
They desperately want to change something, but they report they don’t
know how to make their lives different. As they discuss the scenario, I
typically note a common denominator that keeps them stuck in their
Most people who want to change are caught up in a state of “denial”. As
you read this, you might be saying to yourself that you don’t fall into
that state because you clearly know what is wrong in your life and what
you want to change. I assure you, denial is almost always part of the
The classic example of denial is the coachee who lives with an alcoholic
and does not see the behavior as being as serious as it is. She might say,
“He wasn’t as drunk as last weekend” or “Well, at least he didn’t drive”
or “He couldn’t have been that intoxicated because he was able to go to
When a coachee comes in and wants to start a new business they
typically have not researched the amount of hours they will need to
devote to changing their life so dramatically. They have not created the
financial support to sustain them during this transition. They are in
denial about the realities of this change. They want the outcome, but
they haven’t created the infrastructure to support the change.
My work with coachees who are stuck usually involves moving them
out of the state of denial by doing what I call a “reality check”. This is
done in two steps. The first step is after the coachee makes a statement,
I hit them with a dose of reality.
COACHEE: I want to lose ten pounds.
ME: What have you done to support the change?
COACHEE: I am doing a lot of thinking about it.
ME: (reality check) I haven’t heard you talk about the behaviors that
support the change.
The coachee is well-meaning, but they continue to avoid looking at the
real picture. They stay in that state of denial, pretending they know
what they need to do to improve their lives, when in essence their
situation continues to have major problems because they don’t have a
specific action plan that they are implementing or because they aren’t
seeing the situation for what it is.
I believe you will get healthier faster if you move out of the state of
denial and see the total picture. When a coachee says to me, “I have
been working on my spending” I do a reality check… “How much less
are you spending?” They typically answer, “Well, I don’t know the exact
numbers.” By not knowing the exact numbers they don’t have to change
their behavior drastically.
It’s a very scary thing to alter your life to support the goals you really
want. It takes a lot of courage and self-determination to stop enabling
others or yourself. It almost always means that you will have to let go of
some familiar behavior that has not been working for you. If you want
to save money, you can’t buy that new dress or that new technological
toy. If you want to lose weight, you won’t be able to have that second
helping. If you want to be less affected by your spouse, you will need to
walk away from them temporarily and create your own life.
Are you in denial about something important? To live the life you were
meant to live, you must give 100% to it.
3.8.1 SCALING OF PROBLEMS
Think about something you want to achieve, or even some (minor)
problem that you are currently facing. How would you rate where you
are in relation to this issue on a scale of 0-10 - where 0 is the worst it's
ever been, and 10 is how it's going to be when it's exactly how you want
This seemingly simple question does a number of useful things and
opens the door to even more. Let's have a look in more detail at how it
Unless the rating is zero, it helps you realise that not everything is
bad in the current situation. When we focus on solving a problem,
that tends to expand to fill our awareness until all we see is the
problem. Rating the problem on a scale helps us to realise that some
things are already working, and some components of the solution
are already happening.
Having a scale implies that it's possible to move. If we view the
current situation as 'the problem', and contrast that with our ideal
solution, it can seem like there's no bridge between the two -
particularly if we are prone to black and white, either/or thinking.
The scale builds a bridge between 'problem' and solution - and
obviously implies that we can move along it to get closer to the
Do you ever give yourself a hard time about not achieving enough?
As you know, that will most likely demotivate you. Instead, you can
use scaling to remind you of what you have already achieved with
this supplementary question:
(given that you are at n on the scale now) How have you got there from
Or: How do you stop yourself sliding back to n-1?
Notice how these questions acknowledge and validate what you have
already been doing to make the solution happen, and provide
behavioural reinforcement to your unconscious mind, encouraging it to
do more in that direction.
You can use scaling to begin to move towards your ideal solution,
(given that you are at n on the scale now) What will be different when
you are at n+1?
Notice that the question is not asking 'How are you going to get there?' -
just 'What will be different?'. This begins to build an image in your mind
of how things will be when they are just a bit closer to how you want
them, and what you will be doing differently - a form of mental
rehearsal which makes it more likely that you will take action.
Of course, if you are using scaling to coach someone else, you can
equally well use these questions to assist them in moving towards their
solution. You can also ask, for any action that they tell you they are
going to take: 'On a scale of 0-10, how committed are you?' For
anything they expect to happen: 'On a scale of 0-10, how confident are
you that this will happen?'
Normally I give sources for any research that I quote. Here's an
additional snippet I recall reading somewhere, but the source escapes
me - so it's up to you if you believe it or not: when we assign a
numerical rating to a problem, this engages the left hemisphere of the
brain, which is associated with more positive emotions. So just by
scaling a problem, we may start to feel better about it. If anyone is
aware of the research which backs this up, do let me know!
solution-focus-2-scaling.html (Andy Smith)
The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE - by Paul Z
Jackson and Mark McKergow
3.8.2. Scaling Techniques For Assessing Progress
Using scaling techniques in coaching can be a really useful way of
helping a coachee assess their progress or their state of satisfaction in
relation to their desired outcomes, or clarify their commitment to a way
For example (in the simplest form):
On a scale of 1 -10…
…to what extent have you made progress towards this goal?
…how content are you in this area?
…how committed are you to taking this action.
This then allows the coachee to assess their position and gives a
foundation on which to move forward.
The use of scaling techniques in coaching forms part of the ‘Solutions
focus’ approach (see further reading) and there are numerous
techniques you can employ to use scaling effectively. (There are even
whole day courses you can spend to improve your skills in this area!)
One powerful benefit of scaling is to help your coachee to asess their
position in relation to their ideal outcome (their 10/10). So, when you
ask a scaling question remember to give a brief description of what
their 10/10 might be and a brief description of their 1/10, ensuring
that what you describe for the latter is well below what you know their
e.g. ‘On a scale of 1 – 10 where 10/10 is your perfect scenario where
you are totally organised, you know what you have to do and you
achieve everything you want to achieve in a day and more, and as a
result you feel great… and 1/1 is where you are so disorganised that
you achieve absolutely nothing in a day, you don’t know what you want
to achieve and you don’t even know how to start being
organised….where are you on this scale?’
In this scenario your coachee will most likely to be able to identify some
midpoint between the two extremes on which you can then build with a
further question such as:
‘so what do you know you are doing well which is giving you the score
of 4?’ which then leads to further positive exploration.
Remember, always use 1 rather than zero as your lower end of the scale
as zero cannot be built upon should your coachee choose the lowest
Once you have established your coachee’s current position you can then
ask questions to help move them forward:
e.g. so, if you are now at a 6 what things can you now do to move
yourself to a 7?’
Using scaling techniques in coaching is also a great way to assess your
coachee’s commitment to an action. Simply asking ‘are you committed’
is a closed question and will more likely prompt a ‘yes’ rather than a
‘no’ whatever their commitment is, whilst asking ‘how committed are
you’ might elicit a vague ‘very committed’ response which could mean
many things. By asking a scaling question you are helping your coachee
put some measure on it which you can then explore further and prompt
you to ask ‘so what would bring your commitment to a 10/10?’
From experience coachees with a commitment of less than 8/10 usually
require further exploration to establish underlying issues affecting
their motivation and to establish what action they will be more
3.9 EXTERNALISING OF PROBLEMS
Externalising language is used in coaching to separate the problem
from the person. For example, a person may say “I am a sad person”.
This implies that the person has a sad quality or characteristic of
sadness rather than it just being something that affects the person from
time to time.
Coaches working from a narrative perspective are attuned to the
language they use to represent an issue or problem in their coachees’
lives. They assume that the issue or problem is “having an effect on the
person” rather than the issue or problem being an intrinsic part of who
the person is.
Rather than saying “you are lacking in motivation”, a coach working
from a narrative perspective may ask “when did motivation leave you?”
OR rather than say, “you are stressed” the coach may enquire, “when
did stress get a hold of you?”
Consider the difference between saying ‘I’m a perfectionist’ as
opposed to saying ‘Perfectionism is giving me a hard time today.’ In the
latter case, you are, in language at least, separating you – the person –
from the problem. The separation opens up different ways of talking
about the problem and helps bring to the surface different options for
responding to it.
Of course, you can think of impediments to productivity as a
manifestation of your basic essence, your basic nature. The
impediments may be your intrinsic laziness, slow-wittedness, or
clumsiness showing through. On the other hand, you can externalise
these impediments, think of them as objects or agents that are distinct
from you and with which you have a (sometimes troubled) relationship.
When problems are externalised, it’s much more natural to think of
them as coming and going, sometimes being strong, sometimes weak. It
is much more natural to ask when they arrived on the scene, to ask
whether they might leave, and to ask whether and how you might
change your relationship with them.
If something is holding you back, you can seek to find a name or
other means of referring to the problem, a means that makes it separate
from you. Sometimes just putting a ‘the’ in front of it will work, e.g.
‘The Perfectionism’ or ‘The Block’. There are no right answers here.
The point of the technique is to find a name that means something to
you. And if your first couple of tries for a name don’t feel right, you
can always try others.
Names people have shared with me for problems that have interfered
with achieving their goals in a sustainable way include: ‘The Critic’,
‘Perfecto Man’, ‘The Pressure Cooker’, ‘The Boulder’ and so on. Having a
name for your particular problem, one that means something to you,
helps create the separation between you and the problem. For some
people, the business of naming a problem can seem daft. And for very
many people naming a problem can be both fun and a helpful first step
in loosening its grip.
Finding out more about a problem
Once you have a name for your problem – and even if you do not –
you can find out more about it. How does it like to operate? When is
it most active? Does it have a gender? Does it have a colour and a
When is the problem in charge and when are you in charge? What
aspirations does the problem have for you in the short and in the long
term? What do you like about it and what do you dislike?
What positive intentions does the problem have (even if, overall, it does
not play a positive role for you)? What consequences does the
problem tend to bring about?
Exceptions and unique outcomes
Problems and the problem-talk that they promote, often like to
generalise recklessly. They are very fond of words such as ‘always’,
‘never’, ‘not once’, ‘every time’ and so on, e.g. ‘Every time I start to write
I get blocked. I will never finish this report.‘ If this is your experience,
it’s worth gently probing your history to see whether such statements
really stand up to scrutiny.
You might, for example, get curious as to whether there are any
occasions where the problem has not got its way. What was different on
such an occasion? Can you find a common thread that links together a
series of occasions where the problem did not interfere in a way that
you would rather it had not?
This line of inquiry is not about denying the power of the problem. It’s
not about pretending that it is not an issue. Rather, it’s about opening
up some space for another story thread. If, as can sometimes happen,
the dominant story thread is one of being stuck – ‘I have terminal
writer’s block, I’ll never get finished‘ – then this can sometimes drive
out exceptions. Learning more about the exceptions, especially if you
get stuck a lot, can be a route to renegotiating your relationship with
At the same time, adopting different and richer ways of describing your
relationship to a problem, can help prepare the path for changing the
manner of that relationship, e.g. ‘On Tuesday morning, The Block
started to work on me just as I was making coffee and didn’t let go for
the rest of the day. But on Friday, after lunch with Emily, The Block was
just absent. I didn’t even think about its presence or absence until now.’
You are not the problem, the problem is the problem
Externalising emphasises that you are not the problem. Rather, the
problem is the problem. Getting some distance from the problem can
help you see your abilities and competencies, can help you see the
differences between what you want for yourself and what the problem
wants for you. Having this space can often help you renegotiate terms
with the problem or, in some cases, break off relations with the
Externalising has it origins as a subtle technique that is used by
narrative therapists. For the best DIY results, read up more about it and
work with another person who has also read up. If what you try works,
keep on with it. If it doesn’t, stop and try something else.
Origins and understandings
Narrative therapy, and the technique of externalising, was developed
by Michael White and David Epston.
Generalising recklessly is a topic addressed within Transactional
Analysis therapy in relation to the concepts of ‘discounting’ and
What is Narrative Therapy?: An Introduction. Extracts of the book
are available at www.dulwichcentre.com.au site,
o What is Narrative Therapy?: An Easy to Read Introduction
Brief Counselling: Narratives and Solutions. The authors’ have a
great slogan – ‘if it works do more of it, if it doesn’t do something
o Brief Counselling: Narratives and Solutions
Source: http://obliquely.org.uk/blog/externalising/ (Matthew Elton)