Experiencing the Moment Coaching Example
by Altaf Shaik
Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
A lot of coaching students restrict themselves to working with emotions and the body when using the Experiencing the Moment pathway. For me, it’s much bigger than that. Whether the client is happy or sad, an alert coach works with the desire, the yearning, that comes from deep down right in that moment.
Most of my coaching is by phone, and in the beginning I didn’t do much with the body, because I’ve seen so many coaches ask rote questions about the body with no real concern for what the body is wanting. But now I am aware when my clients are seated or walking, because I ask about it. What’s shifted? What’s released when you move? How are you sitting? What are you looking at?
The client’s opening sentences are crucial—both the words and the energy inform the session. If we push for the presenting agenda too early, we may miss the real agenda. Getting very curious and asking simple one word questions, like “So?” or “And?” can add a lot of value at the start of the session. We are not just floating down the river together; I am picking up patterns. So for instance, if the client comes late to the session or says something repeatedly, I look at what is happening. If I bring in my own agenda by asking, “What do you want out of this session,” I can actually take the client out of the moment and into the future. Instead, if I stay with the initial sentence, a lot can come forth. Especially if I don’t convey urgency, my patience can create spaciousness for what wants to emerge. Even if the client starts with, “I’m blank,” that’s an opportunity to just go with it, without trying to take the client somewhere else.
Staying in the here and now is experiential in nature and it takes a lot on the part of the coach to trust the process. If the client steps out of the “here and now” and begins to talk about “there and then” I don’t correct them; I gently guide them back to the present moment, by asking about what is going on now.
Here is an example of one session.
My client started with “I’m not able to manage time.”
I held silence. Silence is the inquiry. It takes a lot of self-management to slow down, avoid urgency and simply be curious about the client’s experience.
After a period of silence, she listed a whole lot of things she does. If I had come in with my own insights or shared something “smart” before I had a felt sense of her experience, she would have lost the opportunity to arrive at her own insights.
She spoke with a lot of emotion about the way she does things and why she is not able to finish any of them.
I could have stated, “I see you’re frustrated,“ but instead asked, “What is happening to you internally as you talk?” An inquiry usually helps the client stay with what is happening now.
But in this case, she said, “I think I will have to manage time better.” She wanted to problem solve, but I said, “That’s what you think. What are you feeling?”
It can take longer to get to the presenting agenda (to reduce her frustration) but if we allow the client to find it just by staying present, she takes more ownership.
Getting to the deeper agenda came easily—she wanted to feel light, to release the pain in her shoulder. Staying with what was opening up moment by moment, she checked in with the pain in the shoulder. When she was deviating from the present by talking about her story, she went into blame— her husband and in-laws were not doing much. So I asked, “What is it that you want?” In that moment she wanted clarity and assertiveness.
The key to experiencing the moment is to trust the client. I even asked her if talking about her husband and in-laws would get her what she wanted. As it turned out, she was adamant that she wanted to be heard, because she’d never spoken to anybody about her frustration with her husband or in-laws.
As she talked about “there and then,” I listened with curiosity and patience, looking for the opportunity to re-enter the here and now. She came to realize that her heaviness in her body was about blame and anger and she owned her part in creating the situation. She came to awareness that she had made up a story that if she had more freedom to meet people that her husband would not like it. She took personal responsibility that she had placed restrictions on herself. This realization gave her the choice to remove those restrictions and create space to do more things on her own.
Without pressuring my client to state her agenda, the patience allowed something beautiful to come out of it. She recognized her anxiety, came to a new level of consciousness and committed to more assertiveness.
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