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Coach in Training: Questioning

By: Kim Green

Things are getting deep because the course is asking me to look within more than ever. Of course, there was more talk of bewildering acronyms, which started the first class, and I admit my mind shut down, as always. (I’ve got to work on that!) Then, Lynn happily told us that she was calling in from her daughter’s house to remind us all what a gem of a career we have chosen. “It’s mobile!” Lynn exclaimed.

We know that already because many of us have already called in to the call, remotely. But it was nice to be reminded how lucky we were to have a meaningful career that can be done anywhere. All you need is a phone. In fact, all this week I have called in remotely from my client’s hotel, interrupting a writing session in order to be present. I think that is what is most striking - all of our commitment to be at the same place at the same time, no matter what we are doing. That’s what makes me brag.

As expected, Lynn took us through a case study of a woman torn between living her dream of opening a retail store, and her friends’ naysaying. After Lynn first went over it with us she asked us our opinion of the woman and the situation, which brought up all kinds of one-word judgments, “She’s scattered” “Confused” “Determined.” The kinds of words that were not really what this case warranted. After more discussion we could see how shallow we had been in relating to her story, our potential client. You see, this week is all about questioning. Powerful questioning, at that. Shallow interpretations just won’t do.

The case had a few more layers than I have described but not only was it an actual case; it was one of Lynn’s clients. And the clarifying (powerful) question that she asked propelled the dilemma. She asked her client, “What is the meaning of friendship?” Of course, the client stumbled and finally answered. Her answer is the one that cleared the path for her to live her dream. It’s that simple. Learning to ask the things that open up a client can clear their way for them to reach their destination.

The reading and the class discussions this week focused on the difference between open and closed questions. It dawned on me how I had jailed myself in raising my son with so many finite closed questions. Questions that often, he won’t even dignify with a dreaded one-word response.

“When will you clean up you’re your room?” Although the hoped-for answer is, “Now.” Or, “Tomorrow after school.” Usually he just walks away. If I had only known that I could have asked a “What” or “How” question, which would have given him more credit for his own life, instead my question just pushes the rebel button in his mind.

What will it take to get you to clean up your room? “

Perhaps a mere candy bar or a favorite dinner made would be his answer. Or, “How will you clean you room? Perhaps, he would have said, “Pick the clothes up and put them in the hamper,” or “Vacuum the floor.” It would have been something. I’ve got to try that next time. Like today!

It’s the small stuff that’s so big.

So, as I read more case studies and get deeper in the conversation, I find myself with the need to start asking what and how questions of myself. I see now that open-ended questions will allow me to elaborate on the things that I am trying to achieve. With my former closed-question-approach-to-life, I realize that I had boxed myself into finite conditions, thus disappointing myself and limiting possibility. Instead of when will all this reading be over? Instead I can ask, “What will I do with my coaching career? That question brings much more hope regarding the extensive reading. A how question would be, “How will I use this important work to do the good that people so desperately need?”

Kim Green is a writer and a student at The Institute for Life Coach Training. In this blog series, she has documented her experience as she goes through the Foundational training. To read about Kim's journey, click here.