The art of lingering in coaching
Today we feature a new book (2019) by Reinhard Stelter in Denmark, IOC
scientific advisor and thought leader, titled: The Art of Dialogue in Coaching:
Towards Transformative Exchange.
Losing the scent of time
Stelter liberally quotes Byung Chul Han in his 2017 book titled “The scent of
time: a philosophical essay on the art of living.” He asserts that our attachment
to the vita activa turns us into an animal laborans (active lives make us
laboring animals), robbing us of the capacity to linger, to contemplate and
experience time as fulfilling.
Today’s hyperactivity, overcommunication and multitasking sap our time for
reflection. Our culture’s focus on individual achievement makes self-criticism
and self-doubt constant companions. Instead of mental well-being, we end
up with burnout and stress, a mental meltdown.
In this time of whizzing, there is no time to appreciate what is meaningful
and valuable. We are losing the scent of time.
We are restless nomads
Humans work hard to develop our identities in relation to social
environments, what Stelter calls our performing selves: characters on the
various stages of our lives. We use our appearance and bodies to present
diverse identities in different contexts (e.g. clothes, fitness, enhancing drugs,
consumer purchases, hobbies, etc.).
This constant pressure to perform turns us into restless nomads, unstable
selves losing our bearings. The countering response of finding one’s
authentic self can lead us to be too rigid, getting attached to a fixed identity.
Instead, creating and recreating one’s self anew through relationships allows
a natural unfolding of change that flows with our changing contexts — it is
Coaching shifts reflexive to reflective, restless to restful
We can’t understand our subjective selves in action or stream of
consciousness. Only by moving from reflexive to reflective can we see our
subjective selves more objectively or consciously, exploring how
assumptions, values, and relational contexts are shaping our behavior and
Stelter then emphasizes the precious gift of coaching as reflective lingering:
“time for reflection (on nuance) bring substance and value to our thoughts
and speech.” He calls this third-generation coaching, beyond the
goals/performance focus of first-generation coaching and the appreciative,
strengths-based, solution focus of second-generation coaching.
A third-generation coaching dialogue allows a coachee “to meet herself in
her own words,” to absorb and appreciate multiple perspectives, and to
experience implicit and conflicting values. The reflective dialogue invites a
shift in understanding and perceptions, and nudges the coachee to shift
identity naturally, not restlessly.
Dialogues that are artful
There are several areas suited for artful coaching dialogues, starting with
meaning-making. “The art of lingering in dialogue is a journey into the
human universe of meaning,” notes Stelter. He explains how coaches can
explore meaning in multiple contexts, which then guides coachees to better
understand their values, their prioritization of values, and to perceive and
transcend their conflicts in values:
1. Existential meaning/value – what makes my life valuable and
2. Creative meaning/values – what shall I do or create that is meaningful
3. Situational meaning/values – what is meaningful and valuable about
this experience, both pleasant or adverse situations
Coaches can explore the nature of personal values in their own right (how is
courage important to you?) or in a walk-through of specific situations (how is
courage important in this moment and context?). The articulation of values
serves as an internal anchor to self-concepts and life directions and
decisions, as well as generating an effective balance of one’s own values and
shared values in diverse social contexts.
To expand making meaning and exploration of values, artful dialogues
include narratives. The coachee narrates a story that has a timeline and plot,
tying the past, present and future together. In reflective storytelling a
coachee experiences the natural phenomenon of constructing and
reconstructing of one’s self through self-narrative, opening the possibility to
an evolving self-concept. It also opens up a lingering dialogue about new
interpretations and new possibilities to alter the narrative, bringing in new
self-concepts accompanied by new meaning, values.
Thank you Reinhard.
The IOC Team
Institute of Coaching at Harvard highlights my new book
The art of lingering in coaching