A secret used by Zen Masters for hundreds of years can be one of your most powerful coaching tricks. In popular conversation, Zen is used to describe a lot of things: simplicity, tranquility, spontaneity. But what I am referring to here is the very specific difference between Zen Buddhism and other forms of Buddhism. This difference lies in the idea that it is possible to trick the mind into spontaneous enlightenment. Here are three ways to apply this concept in your coaching.
Ask an Unanswerable Question
The famous question “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a classic example from Zen. When the mind is asked to answer such a nonsense question, it may accept the fact that it cannot think its way to enlightenment, relax and then just experience it. Similarly by asking a nonsense question, you may be able to distract your client’s conscious mind, and break through to their subconscious mind. Such a question might be “What was the color of the love that your mother didn’t give you?” Try it and you’ll be using one of the most powerful coaching tricks.
Break Rapport with Your Client
Once you have established deep rapport with your client, you can often shock them into a new level of open communication by abruptly breaking rapport. To interrupt their pattern of thinking and get past their guard, this coaching trick almost always requires that you act in a manner that is not considered polite. For example you might scream at your client, or insult them. Once this is done and their defenses are lowered, you must quickly reestablish rapport and jump through the opening into their subconscious mind. This must be done before their conscious mind has a chance to regroup and put up its defenses.
And the Greatest of All the Coaching Tricks: Know When to Just Shut Up!
As coaches, it is easy to believe that we are the ones making everything happen. This is a little like thinking that because we plant a seed and care for it, we are actually the one making it grow. The truth is that coaching is very focused facilitation. And just as the Zen Master asks their question and then drops back into silence, so to for us a critical element of using coaching tricks is to know when enough has been said and then to just be quiet.
JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach