Time to Think: a Master Coaching Tip


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Whether it is working with life issues, coaching or physical rehabilitation, it is a practitioner’ s role to create and hold a supportive space for someone to be able to work things out for themselves.

We offer information, but it is just as important to offer time for someone to think. The urge to jump in and fill the space created when we stop talking is almost unbearable, but it is within this space that someone starts to take on the task of working something out. Often we feel rushed or under pressure ourselves, and want things to happen quickly, but this can block the person from putting together a new understanding. Active listening, rather than constant prompting, says Nancy Kline in her book, “Time to Think”, is key if someone is to access their own creativity and insight.

Motor learning research indicates that while a lot of feedback during a session can bring about short term gains, it doesn’t create meaningful change over time. Why? Because the person has not been allowed to make their own supported discoveries, and to experience the process of making them. The learning is not really their own.

In my own work as a clinician and as a movement and performance coach, I talk to people a lot about how their brain functions, and how it influences movement, emotions, and sensations, including pain. I give cues where necessary. However, ultimately, my aim is to encourage people to make links and discoveries that are their own. This means that I have to get out of the way to let them take the lead.

I need to do something completely counter to my character. I need to sit back. Exhale. And wait.

One of my husband Kent”s patients pain and trauma patients came up with the magic this week. After noting that Kent had created and maintained a space for her to consider their discussion during their session, her conclusion was profound. She looked at him, thanked him for that support, and then said something amazing.

“I see now. I am responsible for my own responses”.

Wow. So much discovery in one sentence. So much wisdom to move forward with.

That’s the gift that comes of time to think.

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