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Coaching Without Questions

By Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg,
Richard Michaels & Sharon Brown

Coaching for Transformation
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Coaching is not a game of Jeopardy where we try to figure out the questions when we already know the answers. Question after question can become tiresome, so instead of relying exclusively on questions, we can expand our level of support by offering observations, statements or directives. While we want people to have choice in every moment, we imply choice more with tone and receptivity, than whether or not we frame it as a question or a statement. Sometimes people need a break from empowering questions and welcome direct statements. The challenge is to offer statements that invoke the power of the client.

Behind most questions is a statement, so we can speak more transparently and directly by off ering observations, statements or directives uncolored by judgment.

A few examples of observations:

You’re sitting on your hands and biting your lip.

Your volume just increased, and you are speaking faster than usual.

Some examples of statements:

You changed the agreement.

Dating is not included in your action plan.

Example of directives:

Amplify that last word.

Make that into a request.

We take observations for granted because they are so obvious, but when people are deeply immersed in thought, they can miss the observations completely. By stepping out of the mind stream which disconnects us from the flow of life, we can become an observer by simply noticing what we see or hear. When we just observe, without labeling our experience, we learn to see with new eyes. If we simply look without thinking, without attaching words to what we see, we have an entirely different experience. When we perceive directly, without thought, we become one with the objects in our environment. When we give more spaciousness to our observations, we experience life more fully and become more present and aligned with our power. Sharing our observations becomes an art form as we determine which observation to share, and when. Additional examples are provided below.

Supporting Body Awareness

Your shoulders just slumped.

Notice your body.

Pay attention to your breath.

Exaggerate that gesture.

Scan your body and notice any sensations.

Express that in movement.

Breathe louder.

Loosen any restrictions, relax your throat.

Stand up and dance—whatever comes to you.

Notice what your flexed left foot wants to say to you.

You are holding something in your hand. Open your hand.

You just removed lint from your shirt.

Try a pensive posture to see what thoughts you generate.

Your body is collapsed in on itself.

Your body has a message for you.

Assume everything you communicate verbally or non-verbally has meaning.

Try saying that again while looking skyward with a smile on your face.

Repeat that, “I have so much weight on my shoulders,” while I press on your shoulders.

Breathe out what you wish to give; breathe in what you wish to receive.

Describe your posture right now.

Make a sound to go along with the movement in your arms.

When you speak to her, you look at me.

Supporting Voice Awareness

Your voice trailed off.

Make the sound that expresses your internal feelings.

You swallowed hard.

Say the words you’ve been trying to swallow.

Relax the back of your throat and say that again.

You have something to say.

Give voice to your pelvis.

Amplify one word.

Make the sound that expresses your deepest desires.

Repeat that phrase louder.

Sing a phrase from a song—whatever comes to you.

Say that again, pausing after every noun.

Supporting Language Awareness

You are talking about yourself in the second person.

Try saying the first thing that comes to you.

If you weren’t being polite, you would say...

Change “I should” to “I choose to.”

Say that again without qualifiers.

Contradict what you just said.

Say it directly to her. “Cheri, you …”

Change that question into a statement.

Say the headline only.

Change that to an “I” statement.

Change “I can’t” to “I won’t.”

Shift from the hypothetical to what is real for you.

Refer to him as “Dale” instead of “him.”

Expanding with Imagery

You have a gift.

Notice the first image that comes to you.

Breathe deeply into the part of you that needs more oxygen.

Let yourself fantasize.

Imagine you are killing something.

Ask your future self for advice.

Chew on your experience.

Describe the texture and flavor of the food.

Give yourself full permission.

You are giving birth.

See yourself in a boat.

Clarifying Observations

Notice what captures your attention.

Try saying the exact words that trigger you.

Pay attention to what stands out for you.

Become aware of what grabs you.

Remember the moment when you were first irritated.

Put your attention on what matters most.

Notice what’s coming up.

Name the observation that stimulates your judgment.

Something is ringing in your ears.

Clarifying Feelings

Change “He makes me feel,” to “I feel.”

Something is happening to you.

Your feelings are a gift.

Stay with your feelings.

Act out your feelings.

Unleash the pain.

Affirm the hurt.


Get the rage out.

Speak to your feelings.

Connect to the internal experience of your emotions.

Experience the fullness of your relief.

Notice where the joy lives in your body.

Clarifying Needs

Notice what energizes you.

Connect with your heart’s longing.

Slow down.

Check in with yourself.

Open your heart first to yourself.

Now to the other person.

Make a list of all the things you appreciate about yourself.

Hold onto your needs and rock them like a baby.

Unfreeze the need and imagine that need completely fulfilled.

Take a minute to sit with the beauty of your needs.

Connect with what enlivens you.

Clarifying Requests

Imagine asking for what you really want.

Make that into a request.

You want to connect, so ask for what you want.

Propose a doable request.

Start your request with, “Will you…”

Try reconnecting with the need before asking for what you want.

Make “I want you to respect me,” into a doable request.

Imagine what you want.

Ask for that.

Make a request of yourself.

What do you notice in your coaching when you experiment with coaching without questions?

Excerpt from the book Coaching for Transformation: Pathways to Ignite Personal & Social Change by Martha Lasley, Virginia Kellogg, Richard Michaels and Sharon Brown. As faculty at Leadership that Works, they certify coaches who offer personal, organization and community transformation. Check out the free Power of Coaching teleclass.

Coaching is life-changing, world-changing work. The coaching programs at Leadership that Works go beyond theories and models and work with clients on a deeper level. You learn how to coach the whole person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Whole person Transformation.

Leadership that Works

Transforming the world.
One heart at a time.

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