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Why It’s Nice Not to See You When We’re Coaching (And When It Finally Is)

Posted by Karyn Danielle Chylewski | June 21, 2018 | Comments (6)

Given all of our revolutionary tech options, I am often asked why my preferred method to coach is through—gasp—the phone. (No, it’s not so I can coach in my Hello Kitty tee with no one the wiser.) Put yourself on that very first call. It’s quite personal and intimate, with most of the emotional risk taken by the client. Many times, they are unsure of what to expect or “how it goes.” Part of what can help them commit and become vulnerable with you so quickly is this shielded layer of protection, a veil if you will, provided by the safety net of visual privacy.

The veil provides a certainty of knowing they won’t be seen this way if things take an emotional turn; therefore, they focus on their thoughts and are not concerned with being judged or their appearance.

Since we learn and process much slower through our auditory system, when you coach over the phone, you have time to hear what is being said, hear their tone of voice, hear their energy shift by letting their voice, words and energy have the main stage. You’ll find yourself even closing your eyes, so you can listen intently. When we limit the senses involved, we are forcing that sense to step up and act on its own, without external stimuli filling in the blanks instead. By not allowing the visual process to quickly make its own deductions, the mind’s eye can take part in the process and provides a “visual” piece of information. With this combination of emotional safety and focused thought, new neural pathways have time to be created. These new pathways are built using internal thinking rather than being railroaded by the external world. For the client, that means new ways of thinking, new solutions and potentially a breakthrough.

But Video

There is something to be said for eye contact—I get that. Being able to read expressions and body language is very telling—no argument there. When visual tools are required, of course it makes sense. But, before you automatically set up your next Zoom call, think of how many times you are on a video call and the seeing is distracting? That additional form of stimuli is stealing from the conversation itself.

Video eventually complements audio; it’s a new way to learn and explore with your client. Since trust has been already established, seeing one another is no longer weird, formal or threatening…it’s natural, fun and adds to the experience and relationship. When it’s time, go for it.

The AGES Model from the NeuroLeadership Institute lays out how adults learn best. The Attention and Emotion pieces are interesting to consider when choosing our coaching platform:

  • Attention: Novelty helps us greatly here. Our brains love variety and providing that keeps our attention on point. Using different mediums, such as visual, auditory and/or movement, help keep the learning fresh and exciting (stay away from divided attention like multitasking)
  • Generation: Meaning the generation of new connections and not relying on our hardwired ways of thinking. Generation happens best when we relate what we are learning to how it plays into our own lives. We empathize with what is being taught and can understand the concepts better. This can be achieved through self-directed and peer-given feedback (coaching at its best)
  • Emotion: As in our emotional state. In order to learn and contribute, we have to be in a safe place, a toward state. A state of mind where we are not looking to escape, we do not feel under attack, we feel safe and can widen our perceptions rather than concentrating on avoiding the threat. A toward state embraces learning and a hint of “threat,” which is enough to keep you on your toes (e.g., being called on in a meeting or class)
  • Spacing: The debunking of cramming; it’s best to learn over time. The act of retrieving the information in your brain helps cement it

Since I have seen iPads replacing handwriting skills in elementary schools, I feel I must defend what is being chalked up as archaic, which in reality, is actually timeless. Don’t assume every advancement trumps its predecessor.

Karyn Danielle Chylewski headshot

Karyn Danielle Chylewski

Karyn Danielle Chylewski is a NeuroLeadership Institute trained Leadership Coach who spent two decades in the corporate space before taking her passion of developing employees into her own hands. Her approach with her clients is based on servant leadership, and she believes wholeheartedly that when you “do the right thing,” everything else falls into place. Along with a passion for getting people to be their best selves, her other passions include neuroscience, good food, wine, stimulating conversation and Labradors. Learn more at www.karyndanielle.com.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (6)

  1. A while back I would have been against this but having coached over the last few months over the phone, have changed my view and agree with many of the points you raise. People share things really early, that they may not have shared otherwise so it seems to build much stronger foundations of trust and rapport which are essential for the relationship. It does also allow much deeper thinking, just sometimes have to check the client is still there!
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • karyn@karyndanielle.com says:

      Hi Sheela,
      Very interesting that you have had a change of heart! Video is fantastic, but I do believe there is an emotional safety foundation that must be laid first. That foundation can be cultivated earlier, from my experience, through the privacy of the phone and then built on with video. Glad to hear this resonated with your experience!

  2. After my training with Neuroleadership institute, I have been confused on the pros & cons of Coaching on phone. The comfort of the home terrain adds to the towards state of brain for better insights, was the only positive aspect I was thinking about. Your article helps me in have broader perspective with all the cons discussed by you.

    • karyn@karyndanielle.com says:

      Hi Ramesh,
      First, it’s great to connect with someone who has also been through NLI’s programs! Secondly, I am thrilled to hear some of your confusion has been alleviated through my article. Best of luck to you as you continue coaching!

  3. These are great points. I coach via the phone because it supports the client in focusing on their thoughts and feelings rather than my face — they don’t go into the inherent process of trying to read me to see what I am thinking or trying to filter their words for successful impression management, which is a habit for many of us. So on the phone, I find folks shift to trust and relating as easily or sometimes a bit quicker as they do in person. Also, the data are becoming more clear that vision may not be superior to other sensory modalities when discerning someone’s internal states, trying to understand or connect with someone. We believe vision to be amazing because most of the research has focused there giving us the impression that it is #1. But as researchers start to fill our knowledge gap, we begin to realize this belief may not be quite right. For example, as they study our ability to tell what someone is feeling through touch, listening, and even smelling, we are learning that we underestimate how powerful these senses are. In one study, they actually found people could discern more feelings of another through touch rather than sight. And, in terms of connecting and syncing with each other, it becomes clear that you don’t need face-to-face interactions to effectively co-create with someone. You need presence and a desire to connect and “hear.” This leaves the door to find the approach that works best for you and attract the clients who resonate with this approach.

    • karyn@karyndanielle.com says:

      Hi Samantha,
      That is remarkable regarding people discerning feelings through smell and touch, and that they are able to sometimes connect better through that than visually! Very exciting information, I appreciate you sharing! As you can imagine, I find it easier for myself to be fully present and ‘hear’ when I coach through the phone rather than video…and love taking away the temptation to get visually distracted, for both myself and coachee. Thank you!

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