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