Coaching the Language of Empowerment
by Teresa Pool, PCC
Our ability to change is limited primarily by our perception of our ability to change. If we don’t perceive that we have control over the change, little movement will occur but a lot of energy will be spent focused on what we don’t control.
The Language of Dis-empowerment:
“I’m working 60 hours a week because I have to”
“There is no time in the day to work out and eat healthy”
“I can’t quit smoking; it’s too hard”
“I wish I didn’t wait until the last minute to get my big projects done”
“I can’t negotiate with them; they are just too difficult to work with”
“My project is going fail because of Jim’s poor performance”
“I’ll never save enough for retirement”
Sound familiar? These statements all say, “Things are outside of my control and I can’t do anything about it.” As a coach, these language clues can give us insight into how the client perceives their ability to change. It is tempting to dive in and create action plans, hold the client accountable and cross our fingers that change occurs. And it might, but not for long because the perception may still remain.
Holding up the mirror:
Lasting change is created when the client takes back their power, which begins with recognition that they are giving it away. Simple, curious (non-judgmental) reframes that put control back where it belongs can begin to create that shift:
“You choose to work 60 hours a week because you believe you have to?”
“You aren’t making time to work out and be healthy?”
“You choose to keep smoking because it is too hard to quit?”
“You choose to wait until the last minute to get big project done, then regret it?”
“You don’t negotiate with them because they are difficult?”
“You are allowing your project to fail because of Jim’s poor performance?”
“You won’t save enough for retirement because...?”
Coaching the client to change their own “I can’t” language to “I won’t” or “I choose not to” can highlight this awareness in between coaching sessions.
Taking back power with language:
Once the client has recognized where they are giving their power away, they are ready to take it back, again using the power of their own language:
“I choose how many hours I work every week”
“I can make time to work out and be healthy”
“I can quit smoking even if it is hard”
“I can get my big project done early or late, it’s up to me”
“I can learn how to negotiate with difficult people”
“I can complete my project on time regardless of Jim’s performance”
“I choose how much I save for retirement”
Once the language is in place, the behavior to support it will follow. By coaching a small shift in language, you and the client create a big shift in results. Empower yourself to give it a try!
Teresa J. Pool, the President and founder of Transitions For Business, helps her clients achieve their full potential. A human behavior and communication specialist, Teresa’s work as a coach, consultant, speaker, strategic facilitator, and workshop leader has motivated thousands to achieve their personal best. In addition, she inspires change through her published articles, television and radio appearances, and two leadership guides: Focus in the Midst of Chaos and Communication DISCovery. Teresa is an executive coach in UTD’s Executive MBA program and serves as a coaching supervisor and examiner in their Executive Coaching program. Teresa is dedicated to serving the coaching community as a former President of the ICF North Texas Chapter. She also helps the sight-impaired achieve their full potential through her work as a volunteer puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and IMPACT director for the FMC Carswell “cell dogs” program.