I certainly had done the field work.
Growing up Catholic, I became accustomed to speaking into a dark chamber, receiving advice, wisdom and penance without seeing a face.
I learned from an early age that a pretty powerful relationship could be formed by voice only.
In my training as a psychologist, it was assumed that I would participate in my own therapy.
Kind of an unwritten rule.
So there he was . . . my therapist, although I rarely saw his face. I sat on a huge recliner, and he sat behind me taking notes.
Another relationship without a face.
It was me who did most of the talking. My friends and I used to joke that I paid him about 8 bucks a word.
I clearly got the message that I was to find my own answers through the painful wanderings in my own mind. He wasn’t about to help me, except for letting me struggle.
Having a coach was a vast improvement over talking to a priest or a shrink. My coach actually answered my questions, and gave me unyielding support every step of the way.
She still encouraged me to find my own answers. After all, I had them, especially after so many years of practice.
There is something uniquely intimate about a phone relationship. Perhaps it creates a certain amount of safe distance to let your guard down and let your intuition take over.
I am not sure exactly what it is about establishing a heart to heart relationship by phone.
But I do know that it works.
My guess is that is has to do with accessing the intuitive connection.
Intuition is the coach’s ultimate tool.
To gain access to this pathway, we need real ways to bypass the intellect, and to get clear of our own filters and biases.
We’ve all had moments of knowing that defy logic, a simple, yet profound felt sense. When coaches are truly residing in their hearts, it transports them to a place beyond clock time.
Creating this sacred space in service of our clients is our soul’s work, those magic moments when the work seems to happen “through” us, rather than “by” us.
According to Belleruth Naparstek, (“Your Sixth Sense”), intuition is facilitated by taking a giant leap inward, by becoming the egoless vehicle that is our work. This is a place where analysis and judgment are set aside.
One might think that reliance on phone and email to correspond about such intimate matters would lead to social isolation.
But both clients and coaches often feel less inhibited without the distraction of eye contact. Clients are often more willing to be honest with their coaches and with themselves when working by phone.
Somehow speaking into the phone line or typing into a computer screen feels safe and lets us tune into ourselves, with a certain access we didn’t have before.
For instance, here is an email I received from a client this morning “I’m kind of journaling when I email you, and I don’t know if I should email you or journal in a book . . . I never liked journaling, but this is really coming from my heart . . .”
There is a protective quality in not being seen, in which intimacy can be established quickly.
Whether coaching or being coached, one has to pay attention to the signals is coming in – the voice, and one’s own intuition.
Dr. Esther Sternberg, in “The Balance Within”, states that “When we speak on the telephone, there is a sense of being whispered to, which can transmit intimacy”.
Dr. Sternberg also sites another factor that lends itself to intimacy in telephone communication — that of a clearly delineated time limit.
Having a time limit allows a conversation to move quickly from superficial to more sensitive areas. Thus, electronic modes of communication may actually help deepen our relationships and social connectedness.
To increase intimacy by phone, consider these strategies:
1. Don’t forget that your client is a real person with real problems on the other end of the phone line. Have a photo of the client on hand when you coach to strengthen your connection.
2. Speak to the client’s heart. One of my favorite powerful questions is “What is the heart of the matter?” Your clients are very willing to tell you what is in their hearts if you ask them directly.
3. Create opportunities to meet in person. There is no substitute for a face to face meeting. While you may never get a chance to meet many of your clients, if you get the opportunity, don’t squander it. You won’t regret it.
Taken together, these factors lead to a sense of psychological closeness and a “get it done” quality where intimacy and collaboration are fostered.
No wonder coaching just “feels” right!