Reflections – Painting With Words

American psychiatrist Karl A. Menninger once said: “When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

Within the space of the coaching relationship, I see the client as an artist and proactive listening as a means by which the canvas is filled by the thoughts, feelings and words of the client/artist.

Perhaps hesitation and uncertainty represent sketches, important steps along the creative path. There is no judgement, no right or wrong. As an artist tests and plays with ideas, so too does the client have the freedom to discover and discard, mix and match, choose and be.

Intensity of colour emerges through the choice and repetition of single words or ideas. Gaps between brush strokes occur as pauses and unspoken words are heard. Emotions offer the developing picture form and texture.

Outside the artist’s studio finished works are viewed, inspected, catalogued and held as examples of the artist’s talent. Within the freedom of the studio no such constraints exist.

In our lives it is the same with our dreams, plans and actions. We are held accountable to them, even by those for whom our success or otherwise has no importance. The coaching conversation, in a sense, provides a space for a client to be heard free from criticism.

The client is truly the artist of his or her life. Listening intently and fully for the sake of the client is the role of the coach, the artist’s assistant we could say here.

Certainly we are all naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Indeed, it can be argued coaching, and with it proactive listening, is just one outlet for this to emerge. If you would like to offer your thoughts on the issues here, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for being here today.



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