The Language of Coaching


by Terri Hase

When I started out in coaching, I was so uninformed and naive.  It was 2001 and I was a brand new student.  I had done my due diligence before choosing my coach training school, I had read about 20 websites before I made my choice.  Honestly, I’m shocked that I even signed up anywhere.  Not one of the websites actually gave me the feeling I was looking for regaring, ‘what is coaching?’.  Every website had their section called “What is Coaching”, and every one of the sections rambled around their own variation on the answer.

Back in these early days, much of the industry was doing this crazy thing: describing coaching as what we didn’t do, as opposed to what we did do.  There was this moment most of the coaches I knew dreaded: the moment when someone said, “Oh, you’re a coach!  What’s that?”  Then, almost across the board in the industry, we’d answer, “Well, it’s not sports coaching, it’s not therapy, it’s not consulting.  We do some of the same things, but it’s not the same.” – WHAT?!  It was the craziest thing.  I mean, who effectively describes what they do by telling you what they don’t do?  The answer is, no one!

It came from a good place, coaches wanting to be clear they weren’t overstepping those other professions and modalities.  It was well meaning, but woefully ineffective. It also potentially CREATED confusion and doubt. 

One of the biggest shifts for me as a professional coach came when I realized that the words and definition I was looking for were right before me.  It came in the language of the skills I was being exposed to.  Not so much in the brief ‘definition’ of coaching that I was seeing bounced around various schools and organizations, but in the language of the actual skills.  I think that no other body of language represents this better than the IAC Masteries.

So, when people ask me, “What is a coach, what do you do?”, I respond right from the language that represents exactly what I actually do!  Having the connection to the Masteries as skills is essential, of course, but using their language to help the way I speak about my coaching is a huge piece of the success I’ve had in my career.  It’s changed the way I speak about coaching.  Of course, depending on the circumstances, I can shorten or expand my responses to fit, but having the language well integrated into my life makes that step easy!

When I talk about coaching, this is what I can often be heard saying:

“I establish a trust with my clients that ensures there is a supportive space created for growth and transformation. I apply engaged listening to everything my clients share, so I can help them recognize their patterns, and really appreciate their strengths and potential. This process also helps my clients see their limiting beliefs safely within an environment where they know their potential will be affirmed and expanded.

Together we process what comes up in the now, in the present, so there isn’t the pressure of solving the past or justifying their historical decision making.  Then, as their coach, I clarify needs, wants, and ideas with the client to help them set clear intentions. Finally, we develop supportive systems and structures in their lives and explore all the possible ways for them to achieve their dreams and goals.  It’s a real ‘masters level’ approach to living life fully as yourself, and loving the life you live.”

To me, the value of the Masteries doesn’t end with how I apply them to my coaching, but extends out into how I teach people the idea (and language) of coaching.  What language do you use to describe what coaching is?  Does it serve you, and does it serve your prospect in their quest for understanding coaching?  What would happen if you brought in more of the Masteries language?


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