What happens in communication coaching

A journalist at Time Out New York researched the topic of communication coaching and had a phone session with me. The following excerpts from her article provide some comments about communication coaching in general as well as a short description of her session with me.

Below, excerpts from Amy Thomas’ article “Speakeasy: Communication coaching can help ease tensions – especially during stressful holiday times” – Time Out New York, 12/8/05

Sounds like common sense, but just because we interact with one another every day doesn’t mean we’re good at it…. And miscommunication can block the growth of intimate partnerships.

“Relationships normally refresh you,” says Serge Prengel… “If, instead, you feel misunderstood, the relationship becomes draining: You’re putting out more in effort than you’re receiving in nourishment.”

Many who seek help do so because they feel frustrated but have yet to pinpoint what exactly they want to achieve. So the first step often involves identifying a goal. Do you want to address something specific, like improving the dialogue with your mother? Or maybe you just want to learn how to be more assertive in general…

Once goals are set, a coach helps you to see past situations more objectively. For example, you might think you were being fair and open-minded when you asked your roommate not to leave dirty dishes in the sink, but your body language may have come across as judgmental.

“We impose a filter on what we hear,” Prengel says. “If I see you as threatening, then I’ll feel literal danger every time you speak—no matter what you’re saying—and respond with fight or flight, which leads to stress on the body.”

Prengel works first to convince a client that this subconscious bias exists, replaying past experiences for him or her “like a slow-motion camera.”

Role-playing is also employed, particularly to develop new approaches to recurring situations.

Prengel and I used the harping mother as an example. In order to tap into the physical and emotional symptoms associated with a typical confrontation, he asked me how I experienced the stress of our make-believe encounter.

When I told him it made my body tense and I felt closed up, he suggested that my hypothetically meddling mother would sense me blocking her out and take the shutting of a door as a cue to knock louder and more often.

“Even if you’re not saying anything, you’re still an active person in the exchange,” he explained.

Communication breakdown often stems from the feeling of powerlessness. Giving clients different ways to approach a situation also helps them eradicate the accompanying dread leading up to it…. This is also why coaches encourage clients to practice often, whether alone on in a session. Like playing sports or musical instruments, conversation requires repeated study.

… In the end, you may not be able to stop your mother from demanding a grandchild, but you can at least express your own plans and opinions without ruining everyone’s holiday. Plus, you can consider it practice for when you get back to work…

All the above are excerpts from Amy Thomas’ article “Speakeasy: Communication coaching can help ease tensions – especially during stressful holiday times” – Time Out New York, 12/8/05

Obviously, no two situations are exactly alike, and no two sessions are alike: My role is to adapt to each person and each situation with the right tools, and the right tone, for your situation.