“Well I raised a lot of Cain back in my younger days, while Mama used to pray my crops would fail.”
Those opening lyrics from a great old Merle Haggard song paint such a vivid image every time I hear it. And while, I don’t necessarily relate to the theme of those lyrics, I do appreciate the clear and compelling message. I’m a fan of old-school country music – largely because of the story-telling nature of the songs from those artists in that generation. I spent a day in the office a few weeks back listening to several hours of that music in the background while I worked and it got me thinking about how powerful words can be – when crafted intentionally – for conveying a message, or painting a picture.
“She knew the gun was empty, and she knew she could not win…but her final prayer was answered when the rifles fired again”
See there? Willie Nelson sang some pretty descriptive lyrics as well. And that got me thinking about what it means to intentionally craft my words. How do I put together a phrase or sentence that communicates effectively? What goes into the questions or comments I make in a coaching conversation that makes them impactful? How can I sound more like Merle or Willie – not the twang, but the power in their words?
“You know, she came to see him one last time. Aww, and we all wondered if she would and it kept runnin’ through my mind. ‘This time he’s over her for good.’ He stopped loving her today.”
Okay, I promise George Jones’ lyrics will be the last example…but I’m trying to imagine communicating with this kind of power. How would it change my coaching conversations? What insights or awareness might such vivid imagery create for my clients? How do I begin making my words that powerful?
Well, if you have been paying attention, you KNOW I’ve got a couple of ideas to share about this.
First….crafting this kind of language starts with a mindset. What difference would it make if my words were this powerful in conveying a clear image or idea? I think the answer to that lies in evaluating your own reaction to reading the lyrics above. What pictures came to you mind? What did you imagine was going on? How did you relate the message to your experiences? I’ll bet that just by reading one of those phrases, your mind was able to conjure up a scenario to fit what you were reading. Maybe you could see your mother on her knees praying for you when you were younger. Or imagined yourself worrying about your own children. That simple –yet powerful – use of words helps us connect to the story or theme. And if you’re like me, your imagination took over and took you well beyond the words printed on the page.
THAT’s the difference it will make! That’s why it’s worth mastering this skill of communicating with words! When we are intentional about our language, it helps the hearer (or reader) to open up their own thinking and creativity to explore deeper and more meaningful places than we could have imagined. That is the power you can bring to your coaching conversations. Your language can inspire your clients to dream and explore and connect in ways that can help them soar! That’s a pretty good reason to make an effort to use your words more powerfully.
In addition to adopting a mindset and motivation to communicating this way, there are some other keys to help us use powerful language in our coaching conversations. As usual, it starts with listening. Doesn’t everything in coaching start with listening???
Listening to our clients give us clues into the kinds of language that will resonate with our clients. Listening deeply will help us know (or at least wonder) that something deeper might be going on with our client. Listening to words, themes, styles and stories can give us ideas for metaphors, examples, or questions that might communicate in such a way that our clients are inspired to explore more deeply.
Another key to our being able to communicate in powerful ways with our clients is the coach’s curiosity. I’ve written about this before and cannot over-emphasize the importance of our remaining curious on behalf of our clients. Curiosity does so much for the coaching conversation and relationship. Curiosity helps us as coaches to stay focused on the client and not the issue. It helps us to steer clear of problem-solving. Curiosity helps remain a learner in the coaching conversation. AND curiosity can help us in using impactful language to unlock new, creative thinking in our clients.
When we are curious about what might come out of a coaching conversation….when we genuinely wonder what are clients will say next, or what they are thinking or will decide…when, rather than thinking we know, we are anxiously, excitedly curious about what will happen next…it changes our questions. It creates an anticipation that some wonderful and exciting is about to happen…we communicate an expectation that our clients are going to WOW us with their insights and awareness!
I promise you will find renewed power in your coaching conversations if you’ll understand the impact your language can have in spurring on your client’s imagination. Look at this final set of lyrics ( I know, I know…I said no more) from Kris Kristofferson…
I have seen the morning burning golden on the mountain in the skies
Aching with the feeling of the freedom of an eagle when she flies
Turning on the world, the way she smiled upon my soul as I lay dying
Healing as the colors in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes
Loving her was easier than anything I’ll ever do again
Now, go and listen to your coaching clients and figure out the song you can sing for them to help them soar!